15 Years Under Our Lady’s Mantle
Monday, July 31, 2023 marks the fifteenth anniversary of the dedication of the Shrine Church, a celebratory moment in the fruition of what began as Cardinal Burke’s dream to build a shrine dedicated to Our Lady. At its dedication in 2008, the church became a true sacred space, set apart for divine service, for prayer and especially for the Sacred Liturgy.
The Efforts of Many
That momentous day represented the devoted efforts of countless contributors, not only of money but of time and labor. Greg Marco, now Director of Operations at the Shrine, recalls “all kinds of behind-the-scenes preparation and cleaning and putting things together at the last minute,” not to mention “a lot of different events and scheduled blessings and things leading up to the actual day of the dedication.” Preparing the church for the great day cost no small effort: “There were a few nights in a row where we were here till 9, 10, 11 at night and then we were back here at 6–7 in the morning. It was a rough stretch in terms of that, but I look back on it with a lot of fondness; it was all so special and so significant.”
In Every Detail
Indeed, nearly everything in the church is in some way “special and significant.” “I believe that the key issue for people,” says Duncan Stroik, one of the primary architects of the church, “is that [the art] be transcendent, that it be sacred, that it have a direction.” Thus, every detail was crafted to express a heavenly reality: “I like to think of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a sermon in stone,” says Stroik. “It’s going to be there for, we pray, many hundreds of years, to speak to people of God’s love for his children and his Mother’s love for her daughters and sons.”
The dedication of the church in 2008, four years after the groundbreaking, was naturally a joyous celebration, not only of the “opening” of the new edifice, but of its assuming its sacred character. “We have the physical reality, the building, that has been built for a sacred purpose,” explains Executive Director Fr. Paul Check, “but now the ritual of consecration acknowledges, and more than that, blesses the space and sets it apart for sacred use.” Like the Sacraments, the dedication of a church—a complex ritual taking place within a Mass—both represents and effects the change taking place.
Heaven and Earth
The annual commemoration of this blessed event, besides giving thanks to God for fifteen years of Our Lady’s Shrine, offers to both staff and pilgrims an opportunity to reflect on the priceless gift of this church, where Our Lady eagerly leads pilgrims to encounter her Son. “We commemorate this anniversary every year,” says Fr. Check, “because it recalls the moment when heaven and earth came together in this important moment … in the life of the Shrine, and we are asking also at that Mass that these blessings be renewed, that the mission of the Shrine would continue to be blessed by God through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
Furthermore, this celebration is fittingly a community event, since the church is also home to all, a place for the faithful to gather in God’s Presence. As Fr. Check says, “It’s also, of course, an opportunity for the Shrine community to be together, because wherever two or more are gathered, there’s a power in a common prayer of the Church … It’s something that we do together because it marks an important anniversary in the life of grace.”