The Our Mother of Perpetual Help icon at St. Michael Church in Chicago is one of the six original icons brought to the Western Hemisphere, and probably was the very first shrine in the St. Louis Province. Fr. Peter Zimmer installed the icon at a parish mission attended by 5,000 people on December 8, 1870.
The “original” icon survived the great Chicago fire of October 8, 1871. The fabled O’Leary house and barn on Chicago’s south side burst into flames, which fanned north, aided by gusty southerly winds. As the fire moved past Holy Name Cathedral, religious from nearby institutions rushed to St. Michael’s for respite, but they knew that the fire was just a few hours away. Priests, brothers, and nuns, helped by parishioners, packed parish treasures onto an oxcart and fled. Soon, flames tore into all the parish buildings, leveling all of them. Only the walls of the church remained standing.
In 1891, a triduum was held at St. Michael’s Chicago to commemorate silver jubilee of the restoration of the icon in Rome.
The renowned Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 showcased a magnificent display of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. The Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help was featured as an achievement of fine altar building by E. Hackner and Sons of La Crosse, Wisconsin.
The shrine was purchased directly from the Fair Grounds and erected at St. Michael’s on January 20, 1904. A public novena was held in preparation for the dedication. Archbishop Quigley blessed the shrine and partook in the public procession.
Sunday devotions began at St. Michael’s in 1916. A decade later, a ‘perpetual’ novena began on nine Tuesdays in a row linked together as ‘novena’ in 1927. Between 20,000 and 30,000 people gathered to pray together, confirming the popularity of the idea developed by Fr. Frank Fitzgerald in New Orleans. Tuesday devotions began in 1928, a tradition that continues to this day. The novena follows both the 8:00 am and 12:00 noon Masses.
Information compiled from:
Annals, Memorabilia, Roots, St. Michael website