Fr. Scott Kramer, C.PP.S., says that in these troubling times, shrines are more than ever a place of spiritual peace and healing. To learn more, plan a visit to our Sorrowful Mother Shrine in Bellevue, Ohio, which remains open to pilgrims every day.
Following is Fr. Scott’s update about the shrine and its ministry during the pandemic:
I once read that an early Ohio pioneer commented that Fr. Brunner and our C.PP.S. Missionaries “knew the answers even before we knew the questions.” I have a feeling she was not simply complimenting our men on their vast knowledge and wisdom.
Along with the rest of the nation, the shrine is dealing with and at times struggling with the coronavirus and its effect on everyone’s life. For those of us who carry those Teutonic genes of Fr. Brunner and their desire for certainty, order and need to have all the answers, this has and continues to be a trying time.
Though all public Masses, devotions and groups were cancelled earlier in the spring, we kept the shrine open. The grounds and chapels are accessible from dawn to dusk. The priests continue to hear confessions every morning, utilizing what I call a full-service confessional. People drive up to a designated spot in the parking lot, stay in their vehicles and a priest will hear their confession through the open car window. Instead of the windshield being cleansed, the soul is washed clean. The engine oil level isn’t checked but we check on the safety and wellbeing of the pilgrim.
When the weather is nice the shrine grounds are full of people. In these difficult times, families, couples, young and old are drawn to our shrine for myriad reasons. As much as possible, we C.PP.S. try to be out on the grounds when people are here. The people we talk to are noticeably worried and have many questions. It is tempting to provide an answer to all their questions but in reality we can’t.
“Father, when will we be able to go to Mass again?” “Father, why don’t the bishops have more faith and let us go to Mass?” “Father, what will the new normal be?” “My father died yesterday of the virus, I wasn’t able to see him and say goodbye. Will I ever get over this?”
These and many other questions have been asked by our pilgrims along with many more that remain unspoken.
The best answer the shrine can offer is not in words. What the shrine gives to those who come here during this pandemic is a place of prayer, serenity and beauty, and a listening ear. Our shrine provides a place where fearful people can look to the only one who has the answers and can lessen our fears. Jesus has the answers. Our Lady embraces her people here and assures them that they are in good hands.
While some may question the value of shrines in today’s modern world, the experiences of the past few months show how needed we are. We do have an answer and I believe Fr. Brunner would be proud of how we are offering it.
We reintroduced public Masses on May 25. We are fortunate in the foresight of previous shrine leadership, who built our outdoor chapel. It provides a space to celebrate Mass with adequate social distancing. We look forward to celebrating Holy Mass with our pilgrims and ending the long fast so many endured from the Eucharist.