Left, Sister Mary Ellen (M. de Montfort) Andrisin with youth on a nature walk; contributed photo. Middle, Sister Joyce Ann (M. Karen Edward) Zimmerman gives a workshop on liturgy in the chapel; Sister Mary Ellen Andrisin photo. Right, Chapel in the Woods; Mary Knapke photo.
Maria Stein Shrine offers a place for quiet prayer with the relics of the saints, as well as beautiful grounds for a serene stroll. At other times, the Shrine buzzes with activity as staff and volunteers welcome tour groups and families, host events and work to create an environment that seeks to provide faith formation and prayer experiences that meet the community’s needs.
The traditions and the deeply rooted faith of this area’s German Catholic settlers remain vibrant here in the Land of the Cross-Tipped Churches. Ministry at the Shrine helps contribute to that vibrancy — and at the heart of that ministry is a mission of showing hospitality, said Matt Hess, hospitality and ministries coordinator at the Shrine.
“Hospitality is really what the place is about. So anything that we do comes from that hospitality,” Hess said. “We get a lot of school groups. A lot of parishes send out busloads. Families will come out, too. Greeting them, making them feel at home, letting them know where things are, providing lunch for groups. Asking them if they need help finding their saint in the altars, which can be kind of daunting. It’s about meeting people and chatting with them.”
Sister Joyce Lehman, President of the Congregation, also discussed the Shrine’s mission of hospitality at a recent volunteer training. “I have a feeling that in our society, we are building a culture of fear, and by that culture of fear, what we are tempted to do is put people outside. And that’s exactly the opposite of what Precious Blood Spirituality does to us, because Precious Blood Spirituality keeps inviting the outside in,” she said.
Don Rosenbeck, president of the Shrine, said the site’s guest book “includes pilgrims from far and wide,” with recent visitors coming from a variety of states, from Florida and South Carolina to Arizona, Colorado and Utah. Recent international visitors have come from Ontario, Luxembourg, Japan and South Korea.
The Maria Stein Shrine also fulfills its mission of hospitality with a calendar that is active throughout the year — and at the core of the Shrine’s ministry is Eucharistic praying and living. “The Eucharist is our center, our strength, our hope, our promise, our guide. … It’s our place to adore the God made flesh,” Sister Joyce said.
The Maria Stein Adoration Guild is composed of over 100 laypeople who pray in adoration every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoon. The group also hosts talks on various topics each spring and fall. The guild celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.
Hess said that next year, he would also like to introduce a Tenebrae service at the Shrine. The Holy Week service features readings and psalms that are read as a series of candles is gradually extinguished. At the end of the service, a single candle is lit to show the hope found in the resurrection.
Community prayer services take advantage of the Shrine’s treasure of more than 1,100 relics of the saints. While individuals, families and groups may pray with the relics in the Relic Chapel any time, the prayer services allow for the community to gather together, and they include elements such as a Scripture reading, reflection on the life of the saint, music, witness and fellowship. Twice a year, people affected by cancer can pray with the relics of St. Peregrine. Each January, a St. Dymphna Prayer Service is scheduled for those affected by mental illness or neurological issues; in August, people praying for loved ones to come to — or return to — the church may attend a St. Monica Prayer Service.
Susan Jenkins, pastoral activities minister at the Shrine, prays for the intentions left there and coordinates the prayer intention candle requests. The Shrine burns hundreds of candles every week, Jenkins said. About 100 of these are yearlong candles that burn in the Adoration Chapel. The Relic Chapel holds mainly weeklong or monthlong candles. Many prayer requests also come in from the Chapel in the Woods, a small building where sugar and molasses were once made by the Sisters.
“I get to see the heartbreak and the sorrow and the grief, and I get to see the joy and the answers to prayer and the miracles. That’s a really significant part of seeing God’s hand at work,” Jenkins said.
Activities at the Shrine also offer an opportunity for faith formation and transformation. Most area faith formation classes visit the Shrine; many of the students are approaching confirmation, and viewing the relics helps them learn about the saints as they decide on confirmation names.
Pastoral programs are occasionally offered; recent examples include a discussion of end-of-life issues hosted by Dayton Right to Life and a workshop for family and home caregivers hosted by the Mercer County Council on Aging.
“Maria Stein is kind of a neutral location,” Hess said. “Priests from all over can come in, and we can draw people in from the St. Henry Cluster, Maria Stein, Fort Recovery, Coldwater, North Star, Minster … I look at the needs of the community, look at what are we grounded in, and go from there.”
A group called Wrapped in God’s Love, led by local resident Judy Zimmerman, holds regular events at the Shrine. Volunteers gather for prayer and then work together to make clothing, blankets, burp cloths, and hats and scarves for children, victims of domestic violence, the needy and missionaries.
In December, St. Nicholas makes an appearance at the Shrine. The afternoon begins with a prayer service; St. Nick arrives, and children find that their shoes — which have been left in the hallway — are filled with chocolate coins, a cookie and a prayer card. Also in December this year, local resident Tim Nealeigh will display part of his collection of Nativities and classic Advent calendars.
Another popular event, Country Fest, is a Marion community festival hosted at the Shrine on the last weekend of June every year.
More information about the Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics is available on the website: mariasteinshrine.org.
– Story by Mary Knapke