Sunday, May 24, 2015

St. John the Evangelist Parish and the Shrine of the Passion of Christ in St. John, Indiana

Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane-Shrine of Christ's Passion

On the Eve of Pentecost, my family and I were blessed to go on a pilgrimage to  the Shrine of Christ's Passion in St. John, Indiana led by Bishop Donald Hying of Gary, Indiana and Fr. Anthony Jelinek of Marytown in Libertyville, Illinois.  The pilgrimage was sponsored by Michael Wick of The Institute on Religious Life.  We were all deeply moved by the experience, so much so that I thought about just titling this blog post "Wow!"

Although a trip out of town is always a fun occasion, a pilgrimage is not just any ordinary trip, but rather, it is meant to be difficult and to change us in some way, helping us to draw closer to the Lord, and so we were well-prepared to deal with any challenges that we might encounter, although, admittedly, we encountered very few.

Our first stop was at St. John the Evangelist Church in St. John, Indiana.  The presider at Mass was our dear friend, Bishop Hying.  It was so good to pray with him, and in his moving homily about the power of Pentecost he shared one of my favorite quotes of his: "One thing is certain. When we give our lives over to the Holy Spirit, nothing will ever be safe or dull again. We will find ourselves blown out to the deep water and then Christ will bid us to get out of the boat." 

Following Mass, one of the parishioners gave us a tour of the church and shared the history of the parish with us.

St. John the Evangelist Parish Church in the diocese of Gary was originally built in 1837.  The original church, the first church in Northern Indiana, was made of logs and is still standing and is used today at a perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel.  The chapel was only a few minutes away from the newer church so we took a few minutes on our way home at the end of the day to stop and pray in that beautiful chapel and were deeply moved to be with the Lord in such an historical treasure.

When the parish outgrew the log cabin, they had built a larger church, and then years later an even larger church right next door.  Now they have once again outgrown that third church but continue to use it for the daily and school Masses.  In 2008, they built this newest church which seats 10,000 people, the number of people who attended this past year's Good Friday service.  Our tour guide boasted that although the original debt for the cost of the building was well into the millions, most of the debt is already paid off.  The architect who designed the church is a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist Parish.  How special it must feel to worship in the building that you designed!

St. John the Evangelist Church as seen from the grounds of the Shrine of Christ's Passion.

A large statue of Our Lady, properly crowned for May.
The grounds of the Shrine of the Passion of Christ can be seen in the background.

A window in the front of the church displays scenes from the book of Revelation.

photo credit:  John Paul Bender

The two-sided tabernacle which opens from the back  is flanked by two angels on loan from a private collection in Rome.  The hand-carved gold leaf angels are over 300 years old.

The angels that surround the tabernacle on both sides represent the Liturgy of the Hours.
They were designed by the same architect that designed the church.
Photo Credit:  John Paul Bender

The Stations of the Cross are made of ceramic by Suzanne Young from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

She captured the expression on Our Lady's face so perfectly here...

...and here, as well.  You can feel her love and her sorrow.

The stained-glass Holy Spirit window mimics the one found at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

Although she's not yet been declared a saint, the church has a
stained glass window of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

St. Pope John Paul has a window, as well.

The Blessed Mother with the infant Jesus were carved by the same artist who made the
statue of the Blessed Mother for St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in downtown Milwaukee.

Upon arriving at the Shrine of Christ's Passion, which is literally in the backyard of St. John the Evangelist Church, we were greeted by a giant, metallic statue of Our Lady of the Millenium, and, just before leaving, our pilgrimage group gathered around the statue to pray the rosary.

Our Lady of the New Millennium
The volunteers at the Shrine who guided us on our prayerful tour of the life-sized Stations of the Cross, were informative, friendly and helpful.  They also are already very fond of their new bishop which made all of us who were visiting from Milwaukee very proud.

As we walked the path from station to station, the path that was measured out to be the exact same distance that Christ had walked on his Way to Calvary, they spoke about nuances of the artwork and shared stories of how past pilgrims have been touched by the Stations of the Cross at the Shrine. Then they played an audio-recorded prayer for each station while hauntingly beautiful music played in the background.

Touch me not!  Our Resurrected Lord meets St. Mary Magdalene.

Fr. Jelinek lies prostrate at the crucifix and leads us in prayer.
The highlight of the Shrine visit were the reflections offered at each station by Fr. Jelinek.  In his rich Hungarian voice, he added relevance to each station regarding how we live our lives today.  He cautioned us against gossip, spoke about the importance of turning to the Blessed Mother whenever we are in need, reminded us of the importance of a good and frequent confession, mentioned that if we don't forgive ourselves it will be impossible for us to forgive others, at the eighth station pointed out that only women were present and mentioned that even today most church-goers are women, and then spoke about how important it is for men to have a deep and personal relationship with the Lord.  At each and every stop, Father stressed the need for prayer.  Fr. Jelinec spoke with conviction in a "fire and brimstone" manner, warning us to be on our guard at all times so that when our personal judgment arrives, we won't be one of the many who hear "I never knew you."

Fr. Jelinek shares the story of how Our Lady was a help to him while he was persecuted in Communist Hungary.

I'm planning a return pilgrimage to the Shrine of Christ's Passion with my sisters and nieces in late June.  I can hardly wait!  For another perspective on our pilgrimage, visit my son, John's blog here.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you got there Anne. Looks like it was a wonderful day for you all! Thank you for the many photographs too. CMJ