I walked around the grounds, did some Centering Prayer, walked the labyrinth and said the Rosary and took some photos. I also chatted with tourists, all of whom were overwhelmed by the beauty and peaceful atmosphere. Contrary to what Alaska Magazine claimed in their last issue, that the Shrine is not a place of faith and religion, but a peaceful place, nonetheless(!), the Shrine has everything to do with faith.
Bishop Joseph Crimont S.J. had faith when he gave permission to Father William LeVasseur S.J. to build a Shrine to St. Therese. The Shrine chapel was built in 1933, during a time of worldwide financial hardship. Fr. Levasseur recruited men to carry stones from the beaches around the Shrine with which to build the chapel. Soon, not only the Chapel, but the Lodge and the causeway between them were complete.
Hundreds of people of faith have come to the Shrine for retreats, days of recollection and liturgies. Thousands of visitors come from around the world to see the Shrine.
The Shrine is not only a beautiful place in which to reflect on the natural beauty that surrounds it, it is also a place where people can praise and thank God for that beauty.
The chapel has undergone major renovations in recent years, to remove the old plaster, and to refinish the wooden beams that hold up the roof. The windows frame the trees and mountains and the view is more beautiful than stained glass. The chapel is also the final resting place of both Bishop Crimont and Bishop Kenny, who were interred in the crypt beneath the altar.
On the grounds are the Columbarium, where cremated remains can be laid to rest. There is a Rosary Walk, the Stations of the Cross and a beautiful replica of Michaelangelo's Pieta. In addition to the Lodge, there is the Post Office Cabin, the Jubilee Cabin and the Little Flower Cabin. While the word "cabin" makes one think rustic and rough, these cabins are anything but. They are modern, light, airy, handicapped accessible and comfortable. There is also a small Hermitage that has no electricity and is heated by an oil stove, for those who want a more primitive experience.
The view from the Shrine Island is spectacular, with views of the Chilkat Mountains and Lynn Canal. Often, both orcas and humpback whales swim by. Sea lions swim up to the rocks to bask in the sun. Eagles, crows and ravens call back and forth to one another.
John Gitkov had faith. When Mr. Gitkov, a neighbor of the Shrine of St. Therese, recently heard that there were plans to tear down the Lodge due to extensive wear and tear, he volunteered his construction company and tools and equipment to do the necessary repairs. He and his crew managed to save the Lodge for future generations.
Deirdre Darr has faith. She is the new Executive Director of the Shrine of St. Therese. Her vision is to boost the retreat program at the Shrine, and to utilize it's resources, both spiritual and physical, to help the people of the Diocese of Juneau to grow in faith.
Every visit to Southeast Alaska should include a visit to the Shrine of St. Therese. It is a gift from God to all of us.
Here are some of the pictures I took this morning during my time there.
|Leo the Shrine Cat joined me on my Labyrinth walk.|
|The view from Shrine Island|
|The Shrine Chapel|
|Better than stained glass!|
|The entrance to the chapel.|
|Many visitors come and go...|
|...while others sit in quiet contemplation.|
|The newly renovated Lodge|
|The caretakers' cabin|
|The Post Office cabin|
|Deirdre, her husband Ben and their son, Quinn.|