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The Shrine That Wasn’t Supposed To Be a Shrine

Miraculous Medal Shrine – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

The Miraculous Medal Shrine didn’t begin as a shrine at all, but as a seminary chapel. Now this shrine is celebrating a milestone.

For the 140 years, the Shrine has been a place where pilgrims can, “Experience Our Lady and Experience Beauty and Grace.” Fr. Michael Carroll, CM, Director of the Miraculous Medal Shrine, recently wrote: “The Shrine is a place where heaven touches earth. It is a place where people experience stillness, peace of mind, and serenity of soul. It’s a place where our Blessed Mother is always present, always listening, always touching souls.”

The Vincentians arrived in the United States in 1816 and by 1841, they were directing the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. In 1865, to accommodate a staggering increase in Vincentian vocations, the Congregation of the Mission purchased a piece of land in the Germantown-section of Philadelphia that would become St. Vincent Seminary.

Fast-forward to 1915, when The Central Association of the Miraculous Medal was founded by the Vincentians with Fr. Joseph A. Skelly, CM, as its director. In 1927, Fr. Skelly commissioned the building of a shrine to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. To accommodate the Shrine, Fr. Skelly chose to extend the west transept of the Chapel, at the site of the altar of St. Vincent DePaul. Thus, The Miraculous Medal Shrine was born.

Building The Miraculous Medal Shrine would have been enough to secure Fr. Skelly’s celebrated legacy, but he had another gift to give to the Blessed Mother: The Perpetual Novena to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, which began on December 8, 1930, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The “Monday Novena”—as it is popularly called—has been held every Monday since its inception, and this devotion became so popular that during World War II, 15,000 people came to the Shrine every Monday.

Today, it retains a devoted following. Throughout the day and early evening each Monday, hundreds gather at the Shrine for the Miraculous Medal Novenas, and these prayers are having a powerful impact.

The body of the Church also contains votive prayer shrines to St. Catherine Labouré, the First Apparition of the Blessed Mother to Saint Catherine Labouré, and the Pietá (Mary grieving over Jesus’ dead body).

The altar of the Lower Shrine depicts the Second Apparition of the Blessed Mother to St. Catherine Labouré, also known as “The Virgin of the Globe.” This Lower Shrine also includes prayer shrines commemorating other popular devotions to the Blessed Mother, including shrines to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Vailankanni, and Our Lady of FIAT (Filipinos in America Today).

The Shrine also features a large multipurpose room that is used for gatherings, educational instruction, cultural events, and socializing. What’s more, there is a popular faith-based gift shop with devotional and inspirational items.

Outside of the Shrine on Monday evenings, visitors, neighbors, and those passing by on the street are treated to the melodious sounds of a 47-bell carillon emanating from the Shrine’s 125-foot bell tower, topped by a 14 foot statue of Mary Immaculate.

While the Shrine’s popularity grows among a new generation of faithful who are embraced by its grace, its timeless gift of Mary’s presence will be bestowed on all who enter its doors.

See also the Secret Mission of St. Catherine Laboure.

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