The U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has designated the Shrine of Saint Thérèse, Juneau, Alaska, a National Shrine.

After receiving the official announcement, Bishop Edward J. Burns of the Catholic Diocese of Juneau shared, “We are pleased to have the Conference of Bishops recognize the Shrine of St. Thérèse a National Shrine. The shrine is a place of tremendous spiritual and natural beauty for all who visit, and we are happy the Bishops have confirmed what so many shrine visitors have felt in their hearts – that the National Shrine of St. Thérèse, Juneau, is a gift from God and a treasure to all who pilgrim to her shore.”

The USCCB Administrative Committee approved the designation September 13, 2016. The official decree is dated October 1st, the Feastday of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. The U.S. bishops must review a national designation every 10 years. There are about 70 national shrines.

Conditions for receiving the national designation include being dedicated to promoting the faith of the pilgrims, such as a devotion based on church-recognized revelations.

A national shrine also must nourish the spiritual lives of pilgrims through the liturgy, offer some form of common prayer — such as the Liturgy of the Hours – and, provide adequate pastoral care for pilgrims.

Because a shrine cannot serve as a local parish, baptisms, weddings and funerals may take place at the shrine but are administered through St. Paul the Apostle parish in Juneau.

Bishop Burns announced the national designation to the faithful gathered at the Southeast Alaska Catholic Conference held at St. Paul the Apostle Parish on October 1st. Bishop Burns and the priests of the Diocese concelebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving to God for the Shrine’s new designation. The Mass culminated the diocesan-wide Novena to St. Thérèse, patron saint of the diocese and of Alaska. “I am profoundly grateful to so many who have given their time, talent and treasure over the past 75 years to make the National Shrine of Saint Thérèse in Juneau what it is today. This a place of spiritual refuge for people of all faiths and nations — a place where people hear the call of Jesus to ‘come with me by yourself to a quiet place and rest.’ ” (Mark:31)

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St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus – St. Thérèse of Lisieux — was canonized on May 17, 1925. Bishop Crimont, then bishop of Alaska, had a strong devotion to the new St. Thérèse, having personally known members of her family in France, and he encouraged a devotion to her among the people of Alaska.

The Shrine of St. Therese in Juneau began as a dream of Father William G. LeVasseur, S.J. “He envisioned a place that would call people to a greater devotion to God… to help bring God’s people closer to the true source of all life.” (‘History of a Dream’ – Shrine of St. Therese history)

With the approval of Bishop Crimont, land was secured from the U.S. government, the first part of the plan was to construct a retreat house, and in November 1933 that was partially completed. The second stage of the plan was to build a chapel on Crow Island, later renamed Shrine Island. The work on the chapel began in 1935, and after much fundraising and work by the local craftsmen, the first Mass in the completed chapel was celebrated in 1941.

Over the ensuing years, the Shrine facilities have received upgrades and renovations, and continue today to be administered as part of the Catholic Diocese of Juneau, to “… ensure that this blessed place will continue to touch the lives of the visitors and pilgrims as it has done over the past many years.”

To read a complete history of the Shrine, or to find out more about the Shrine and its National designation, visit the Shrine website at: http://www.shrineofsainttherese.org.