(Oconomowoc, United States)The Redemptorists of the Denver Province recently dedicated a beautiful new Shrine Chapel to Our Mother of Perpetual Help on the grounds of the Redemptorist Retreat Center in Oconomowoc. Construction began in 2016, while the Redemptorists worldwide celebrated the 150th Jubilee of receiving the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help from Pope Pius IX and his mandate: “Make her known throughout the world.” It is fitting that the Shrine Chapel was completed this year, as the Redemptorists continue the Jubilee celebration with an emphasis on evangelization.
Br. Gerry Patin, director of the Redemptorist Retreat Center, believes that it may be the first free-standing Shrine Chapel dedicated exclusively to Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the entire country.
“Our Mother of Perpetual Help is so beloved around the world that there are shrines and chapels devoted to her everywhere, but we haven’t been able to identify another free-standing shrine or chapel dedicated exclusively to her in Wisconsin, the Midwest, or even the entire nation,” he explained. “Everyone who shares our devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help will want to visit this beautiful new Shrine Chapel.”
Provincial Superior Stephen Rehrauer presided at the solemn dedication of the Shrine Chapel on September 9. Nearly 150 people participated in a Mass in the main chapel at the retreat center, and then processed outside to the Shrine Chapel led in song by Fr. Ed Vella. Fr. Steve blessed and consecrated the new Shrine Chapel, as well as the nearby gardens available for prayer and meditation, and two private hermitages named after St. Joseph and St. Gerard Majella that were recently built on the retreat center property.
The centerpiece of the new Shrine Chapel is a magnificent Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help that was commissioned from the Redemptorists in Rome at the turn of the last century. Redemptorists were among the first missionaries to minister in the region that now comprises Michigan and Wisconsin during the 1830s. They succeeded Dominican Father Samuel Mazzuchelli in “Shantytown,” the forerunner of Green Bay. Many of the newly arriving German immigrants shared a devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help, and the then-rector of the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier in Green Bay commissioned the Icon in 1900. During a renovation of the cathedral, the icon was replaced with a mosaic and the icon passed into the care of a layman. It came into John Erickson’s possession when he served as executor of the estate.
While John was on retreat, he noticed a Perpetual Help icon on the wall near Br. Gerry’s office. He mentioned to Br. Gerry that he had a very nice icon with official papers from the Redemptorists in Rome on the back, and invited him to his home. When they learned that John actually had the original Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help that was sent from Rome in 1900, John generously donated it to the Redemptorists at the retreat center in Oconomowoc.
“The Shrine Chapel really has been a community effort. It would never have become a reality without the support of our retreatants and friends of the Redemptorist Retreat Center,” Br. Gerry said. He also expressed gratitude for the pro bono services of Patrick Seitz, who designed and provided blueprints for the Shrine Chapel and two new hermitages, and Chuck Mazza, who oversaw the entire project – from the purchase of the property through the completion of the buildings and other necessary property developments.
Photos by Br. Gerry Patin