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The Miraculous Medal Shrine Crypt

If you sit quietly, you can almost hear their hushed tones or feel their priestly presence. Their aura is palpable as they lay to rest once again as confreres. While they have transitioned from the physical to transphysical, the Vincentians of the Eastern Province, who are placed in The Miraculous Medal Shrine’s Crypt, impart a spiritual connection to visitors.

Hidden deep beneath the Shrine (yet accessible from the building’s Lower Level) the Crypt, also known as the Shrine’s Mortuary Chapel, is the final resting place of 71 Vincentian priests, brothers, and seminarians. All of them entered eternal life from 1900 until 1963, when Fr. Joseph A. Skelly, CM, founder of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal, was laid to rest.

Fr. Joseph A. Skelly, CM (pictured at altar), supervised the improvement of the crypt, not knowing that he would have a special tomb there.

Originally, there were several locations where deceased Vincentians were interred, including present-day Niagara University in New York and the vault under the entrance of St. Vincent de Paul Church on Price Street in Philadelphia. In 1900, the Congregation moved the burial grounds to the seminary property in Germantown. Here, beneath the sanctuary of the Immaculate Conception Chapel, Vincentians found their final resting home.

By 1938, all the plots in the crypt were occupied except for one. The last space was used for Fr. William F. Groeninger, CM, who died on February 27, 1943, and was laid to rest in the crypt on May 3. However, twenty years later, a burial space was dedicated to Fr. Skelly; it was the only burial purposely placed.

When visiting the Crypt Chapel, visitors will notice a large number of deaths occurring in 1918. During the influenza pandemic of that year, the Vincentians responded heroically to the sick and dying, knowing that they were at risk of contracting the life-threatening flu infiltrating Philadelphia. As a result, nine succumbed to the disease between September and October of 1918. This is the largest number of Vincentians placed in the crypt during a one-year span. Open to the public, the crypt is more than an entombment of Vincentians. Kevin Flynn, who has been a frequent Shrine visitor since his early childhood, has found the crypt to be a serene spot for reflection. “I enjoy visiting the crypt because it is a quiet place to pray,” says Flynn, “and with Fr. Skelly and his confreres buried there, I imagine I am surrounded by saints.

Open to the public, the crypt is more than an entombment of Vincentians. Kevin Flynn, who has been a frequent Shrine visitor since his early childhood, has found the crypt to be a serene spot for reflection. “I enjoy visiting the crypt because it is a quiet place to pray,” says Flynn, “and with Fr. Skelly and his confreres buried there, I imagine I am surrounded by saints.”

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