Marian Shrine is the new home for a local ministry
By Vanessa Denha Garmo
He is a priest known to many Chaldeans wearing a recognizable religious garment worn by the Franciscans; Fr. Alex Kratz, OFM, along with co-founder Patti Giangrande, OFS, a secular Franciscan, and their Terra Sancta Ministries have ventured into a new project that most certainly would be of interest to the faithful.
They purchased a new location for their ministry. The property was owned by the Archdiocese of Detroit. It’s one of six official Marian shrines of Michigan.
Located at 400 South Boulevard West near St. Joseph Hospital in Pontiac, the church was originally founded in 1923 as St. Joseph Parish in the Polish Hills. In 1948, diocesan priest and a Third Order Franciscan, Fr. Bernard Jarzembowski, on July 5, 1939, became the pastor.
In 1947 Fr. Jarzembowski attended the Marian Congress at Ottawa, Canada—perhaps the largest religious event in North America. A parish history notes, “There in the Chapel of Peace, stood a replica the statue of Our Lady of the Cape. On June 18 and 19, Father spent most of the hours in the chapel, several times venerating the statue and praying. He was emotionally moved. He returned home, but the statue was constantly on his mind.”
Fr. Jarzembowski wrote in his memoirs, that as he prayed before the statue of Our Lady of the Cape, (which is actually the image of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, the Immaculate Conception, Mediatrix of All Graces as She appeared to St. Catherine Laboure’ in 1830), “a feeling came over me which would not leave” and he then received his mission, to “come back to St. Joseph Church and establish a Shrine to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart where people could come to learn about Mary and develop a relationship with Her that would become a treasure for their whole lives.” After a few days, he decided to obtain from Montreal a full replica of the statue for the new church.
Today, The Shrine Grotto with the immaculate Heart of Mary statue outside the actual church and then inside the church is the statue of Our Lady of the Cape—one of only eleven exact replicas in the world.
According to the Catholic Tradition website, Our Lady of the Cape (Notre-Dame-du-Cap in French) is a title given to Mary the Mother of God in Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec Canada. The title pertains more specifically to a statue of the Blessed Mother, which is currently located in the Old Shrine.
Deep Marian Devotion existed in Cap-de-la-Madeleine (near Three Rivers) since 1694 with the institution of the Brotherhood of the Rosary under Father Paul Vachon. There was a decline in devotion after the death of Fr. Vachon (1729) which lasted 115 years, until devotion to Mary was revived under Father Luc Desilets in 1867. After he had seen a pig holding a rosary in its mouth, Fr. Desilets decided to consecrate himself to the Blessed Virgin and reinstate devotion to her. The image was crowned by Pope Pius X on 12 August 1904.
The restored Lady Chapel was dedicated on June 22, 1888. That evening a lame man called Pierre Lacroix was brought into the chapel by Father Desilets and Blessed Father Frederic Janssoone (beatified by St. John Paul II in 1988). The three men experienced an amazing apparition centered on the statue of Our Lady. “She raised her eyes!” Father Desilets later reported. “She looked in front of her as if looking outwards into the distance. Her face was severe and rather sad.”
The three men swore an oath that what they had seen had truly taken place, and their statement is stored on parchment in the library of the sanctuary to this day.
“The Diocese still owns the actual statues,” said Fr. Alex. “They wanted to make sure they always stayed within the Catholic Church.”
The marble statue outside in the grotto is from Italy and has been reported to be the site of miracles. “In 1960, on the Feast of Our Lady’s Queenship, eight people signed a sworn affidavit that Our Lady came alive from the waist on up, especially her eyes probably because they were honoring her,” said Fr. Alex. “In the mid-60s, Mother Teresa visited because of its reputation for healing and the fact that it is an official Marian Shrine.”
The goal of the ministry is to rekindle devotion to Mary as part of the overarching effort to deepen Catholic discipleship. Intentionally or not, “Our Lady has been marginalized in American Catholic devotional and liturgical life. If her charism is to “crush the serpent’s head” (Gn. 3: 15) and to help us be pure in an oversexualized society, marginalizing her will not enable us to evangelize America effectively.”
“Besides, as the holy Mother of God, proper veneration of her is her due.” After all, said Fr. Alex, “true Marian devotion will always lead us more deeply to Jesus.” Hopefully, “this holy shrine will be a place of grace that attracts spiritual seekers and the unchurched—groups we want to reach.”
In the early 1980s, the statue inside the grotto was vandalized with someone using what was believed to be a sledge hammer. The statue is still chipped today. After the vandalization, a tear channel appeared in the marble underneath her left eye.
Also on the property there are outdoor Stations of the Cross—11 columns and three statues of Jesus’ Passion including a large crucifixion scene.
“The place truly has a holy presence.” said Fr. Alex. “Many people often comment on this sense of the holy.”
Inside the St. Joseph Chapel are olive wood Stations of the Cross, hand-carved by Christians in Bethlehem. “Amazingly, after having ordered them from the City of our Savior, we realized they match our pews and new sanctuary floor exactly. It once again confirmed that building bridges to the Mother Church of Jerusalem is part of our charism,” said Fr. Alex.
They conducted a Catholic Bible Study to help Catholics “get into the word” and hope to start a St. Anthony Evangelization Center on site as well. “We want to train Catholics how to share the faith and Gospel with more confidence and effectiveness.”
Terra Sancta Ministries also has a devotion to St. Anthony—the “Evangelical Doctor.” On the Feast of St. Anthony, they handed out four hundred rolls of blessed St. Anthony bread at Mass and to the families in the neighborhood.
“We found out that Fr. Jarzembowski had a devotion to St. Anthony who healed him when he was a child,” said Fr. Alex. “To our surprise, this place also had a Third Order of St. Francis fraternity (Secular Franciscans)—all Franciscan elements we were unaware of when we started this venture but which gladdened our Franciscan hearts. Still, the main charism is Marian, and it is Mary, by God’s grace, who can help renew the Church and save our society.”
The Shrine is open Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. with a 12-noon Mass, Rosary following and Confessions before Mass.
Fr. Alex is the Spiritual Director and Patti Giangrande, OFS is Executive Director and Pilgrimage Coordinator. As a Catholic non-profit, Terra Sancta Ministries is entirely volunteer-run and depends entirely on donations.
Terra Sancta in Latin means “holy land” or “holy ground.” “For now, we are the custodians of this holy place,” said Fr. Alex, “Because through prayer that is what the Holy Spirit has called us to do.” “With the help of many generous volunteers and benefactors, and especially our leading partner, Laura Sovel, God has enabled us to restore this abandoned shrine to become a place of beauty—all for God’s greater glory.”
He continued, “With St. Joseph as our patron, we hope to foster pilgrimage here as it occurred in the past. Pilgrimage is our specialty—we lead two each year to the Holy Land. But why not here in Pontiac too?”
The Holy Land connection was confirmed when they found out about Franciscan friar, Blessed Federic Janssoone, who left the Holy Land for Canada to promote pilgrimages to Our Lady of the Cape at Three Rivers. “It confirmed for us that this whole endeavor was being directed by Heaven,” said Fr. Alex.
“Blessed Frederic also saw the ‘miracle of the eyes’ as the eyes of Our Lady of the Cape came alive. That set his heart on fire as he preached about taking pilgrimages and living the gospel life. He also was instrumental in re-establishing the Franciscans after they were kicked out of Canada by the British.”
Terra Sancta Ministries hopes to bring more people to Christ through a devotion to His Mother. “The property is a little oasis of peace,” said Fr. Alex, “and, hopefully it will touch a lot of souls.”
For information about the shrine, call (248) 320-0107. To contact Fr. Alex, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terra Sancta’s Wish List
Terra Sancta still needs much work and they have a wish list of items and services needed. Fr. Alex is asking that all to, “Please pray about what donation the Holy Spirit is asking you to make for this ministry.”
Hymnals: Gather III hymnals
$15.00 per hymnal (50 hymnals = $750)
$120.00 for two music accompaniment books
$80 for shipping & handling
Stations of the Cross ($800/Station): See Stations donation sheet.
13 still need paying for.
Chair in Confessional: $200.00
Fix second confessional: no estimate yet
Tile flooring for the basement.
“Flower Fund”: Flowers for statues
Hand-held Dust-buster type vacuum with crevice tool (Eureka)
Vanities for the basement.
Faucets for the basement.
Small fridge for sacristy.
Glass covers for 2 statue stands (St. Joseph & Our Lady of the Cape)
Commercial color printer: $2,000
Landscaping: bushes, flowers, benches, regarding the hillside
Repaving parking lot:
Tree maintenance: Trees need to be trimmed and cut down.
Redo outdoor altar area:
Angel & Jesus Kneeling (both 4 feet) (includes additional wing): White: $5,250.00
Brick word for the Stations of the Cross: estimate needed
Life size Crucifixion Scene (5 feet): White $13,100.00
New Pieta (60 inches wide x 40 inches deep x 58 inches high): White $4,400.00
New Dead Savior (65 inches wide x 22 inches deep x 25 inches high): White $4,000.00