Brief History of the Marian Friary & Shrine
The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the fruit of an inspiration received by its Founder, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, while Bishop of La Crosse. His desire was to build a “place of authentic devotion to Mary, the Mother of God,” a place for pilgrims to experience God’s love and mercy. The Shrine church was dedicated by Cardinal Burke on July 31, 2008, at that time Archbishop of St. Louis. The hopes of the Archbishop were already fulfilled abundantly within a few short months after the Shrine church’s opening: pilgrims not only from the Midwest but as far away as California have come in large numbers to visit the Shrine and find spiritual renewal. Formerly the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome and now the patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta , Cardinal Burke remains the director of the Shrine.
In 2007 the then Archbishop Burke approached the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate to request their direction of pastoral care at the Shrine. On July 13, 2008, three Friars (Fr. Peter M. Fehlner, Fr. Louis Maximilian M. Smith, Friar Joseph M Schmitzer) arrived in La Crosse to begin their residence at the Shrine. Fr. Peter is the Shrine’s first Rector. During October of 2010 Fr. Louis Maximilian was transferred to the New Bedford friary as Guardian. His place in La Crosse was taken by Fr. Jacinto M. Chapin. In July of 2012 Fr. Jacinto succeeded Fr. Peter as second Rector of the Shrine.
Apostolate of the Friary
The Friars provide spiritual assistance and pastoral care for the Shrine, consisting primarily in preaching, celebration of the Sacraments, organization of yearly Marian Symposiums, and giving talks to groups of pilgrims upon request. The Friars also assist in the spiritual and doctrinal formation of members of the Marian Catechist Apostolate, a catechetical association begun by the late Fr. John Hardon and now under the direction of Cardinal Raymond L. Burke. Occasionally they assist in nearby churches, in particular the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workingman in La Crosse, with administration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, giving conferences and preaching retreats to religious. They have founded at the Shrine a flourishing group known as “Our Lady’s Knights of the Altar” for the training and spiritual growth of altar boys serving at the Shrine.