by L. Scott Swanson, Editor Straitsland Resorter
SCRAPBOOK - PAST & PRESENT
The Cross in the Woods Shrine in Indian River was recently named
a national shrine by the United States Conference of Catholic
Bishops (USCCB). Following review of the petition and a visit
to the site last summer, the Administrative Committee of the
USCCB, on the recommendation of the Ad Hoc Committee on Shrines,
approved the granting of the designation "National Catholic
Shrine" on Sept. 15.
In 1992, the USCCB approved Norms Regarding the Designation of
Shrines as National Shrines, which require that diocesan shrines
seeking this honor reflect Church teaching as well as meet other
administrative criteria. All shrines must be devoted to a saint
or a mystery of the Catholic faith.
Father Donard Paulus, OFM, pastor
of Cross in the Woods from 1989 to 2000 and shrine director until
his retirement said, "Three qualities are required
of a national shrine: the primary mission must be the imparting
and celebration of Catholic faith, the shrine should be a center
for worthy and exemplary celebrations of the liturgy, especially
Eucharist and penance, and it should be easily [handicapped]
accessible, with appropriate facilities for pilgrims."
Father Paulus, who was instrumental in petitioning the USCCB
for national shrine status said, "I found out about the
chance to become a national shrine when I joined the National
Association of Shrine and Pilgrimage Apostolate ((NASPA) and
began attending their yearly conventions. Directors of Catholic
shrines from Oregon to New York and Florida to California attend."
In 1946, Bishop Francis J. Haas of the Diocese of Grand Rapids,
established the new parish in Indian River. While only a handful
of Catholic families resided year-round, there were a large number
of Catholics who lived and vacationed in the area from April
to October. The original church, built in the Native American
"long house" style, was designed by Alden B. Dow and
constructed to overlook the wooded land that lay beside it.
The founding pastor, Reverend Charles D. Brophy, envisioned a
huge wooden cross for the outdoor sanctuary to inspire fidelity
to the crucified Christ. It was Fr. Brophy's devotion to blessed
Kateri Tekakwitha, a Christian member of the Algonquin and Mohawk
Indian nations who fashioned crosses from sticks and placed them
through the woods, that influenced his pursuit of the project.
In 1954, a cross made from giant redwood measuring 55-feet tall
and 22-feet wide was erected, and a seven-ton bronze corpus of
Jesus Christ, created by sculptor Marshall M. Fredericks, was
placed on the cross and dedicated in August 1959. The huge crucifix
rests atop a hill, which is ascended by the Scala Sancta (Holy
Stairs) each containing a first class relic. During the summer
months, Mass is offered at the foot of the crucifix, which has
become the centerpiece of the shrine.
The uniquely Cristo-centric dimension of the shrine provided
by the monumental crucifix is today complemented by six secondary
shrines that offer quiet space for prayer and reflection: the
Resurrection Garden and Way of the Cross; the Shrine of Our Lady
of the Highway; the Shrine of St. Peregrine, patron of those
suffering from cancer and HIV/AIDS; the Shrine of Blessed Kateri
Tekakwitha, the patron of the shrine; the Shrine of St. Francis
of Assisi and a Meditation Walk based on Canticle of the Creatures
of St. Francis of Assisi.
Monsignor James P. Moroney, Executive Director of the USCCB Secretariat
for the Liturgy stated," Every year I visit shrines around
the county on behalf of the ad hoc committee to assist them with
their petitions. I can honestly say that I have never been more
impressed than when I visited the shrine of the Cross of the
Woods at Indian River." He continued, "I was affected
by the wonderful pastoral and liturgical status of the church
and the ministry of the Franciscans who work there . . . I was
also deeply touched by the people, their social service presence-being
Jesus on the cross for their neighbors, both far and near."
The Shrine at Indian River is located in an area with a significant
tourist population. It hosts pilgrimages from groups from throughout
the United States as well as internationally. During the tourist
season, Mass is celebrated twice daily and three times on Sunday.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is available 24 hours a day.
The Anointing of the Sick is celebrated daily and the Stations
of the Cross are prayed weekly.
Annually, between 275,000 and 325,000 people visit the Cross
in the Woods Shrine. Msgr. Moroney noted, "The Shrine is
unique in that it is a pilgrimage site not only for Catholics,
but for people of many faiths around the country and around the
world." It has been estimated that approximately 40 percent
of pilgrims are non-Catholic.
When Father Donard became the pastor and director of the Shrine,
he had called on the parishioners to take a more active roll.
Today about 50 members of all ages and walks of life have assumed
the primary role of hospitality. They serve as liturgical minister,
choir members and act as greeters for buses and those on pilgrimage.
The parish mission statement reads, "We, the parishioners
of the Cross in the Woods shrine-parish, open to the guidance
of the Holy Spirit, are dedicated to preserve, live and proclaim
the Good News. As a sacramental people we are committed to welcome
all into Christ's presence among us. Our ministry is one of evangelizing,
hospitality, and providing an atmosphere of reverence and peace."
There are approximately 120 national Catholic shrines in the
United states. There is only one other in the State of Michigan-the
Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak.
Msgr. Moroney concluded, "When I described to the bishops
my visit and experience at the Cross in the Woods, there was
no reservation on their part that the designation of National
Shrine was appropriate." The Cross in the Woods Shrine was
the only site designated a National Catholic Shrine by the Bishops
The Cross in the Woods Shrine is open 365 days a year. For more
information or to schedule a group pilgrimage, visit their website at
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