(Where Gumbo Was #464)
Gumbo was visiting the picturesque and peaceful Shrine of our Lady of Guadelupe, located in the hills outside of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Congratulations to George G, the only one who recognized where we were.
We spent only one day in La Crosse and made a point of visiting this site. It was a cool, rainy day when we visited, but we still enjoyed it. While it is fairly new, it has become a pilgrimage site and also place for local people to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the place.
The Shrine is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and her appearances on the American continent in 1531. The La Crosse shrine site was spear-headed by Bishop Raymond Leo Burke, who in 1995 was inspired to create a site dedicated to the mother of Jesus. A lovely piece of land was donated by the Robert Swing family. Ground was broken in 2001 and construction of the Shrine Church began in 2004, with dedication in 2008.
A map of the Shrine site (courtesy of the Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe) is located below, to help orient you to the layout of the place:
There is plenty of parking and no admission fee. As you leave the parking area to walk towards the Pilgrim Center, you pass this interesting statue of Saint Juan Diego, one of several on the property.
The Pilgrim (Visitor) Center is staffed with friendly people who will help you get oriented and learn more about the site, and to answer any questions you might have. The center also has a restaurant and gift shop if you're interested.
From here you begin to walk the Meditation Trail, which gradually works its way uphill. We visited in October, and though a lot of leaves had already fallen, the colors were nice.
The first stop along the way is at the small but charming Votive Candle Chapel, which opened in 2002....
The tall spire of votive candles was quite remarkable, and there were lots of beautiful stained-glass windows, a sample shown below:
Further up the hill you'll find the Shrine Church, an architecturally pleasing structure with an especially interesting interior.
(Another statue of San Juan Diego is outside of the Shrine Church)
Here are some of the details of the church interior:
There is a lot of original art in the church, some shown below:
Located immediately outside the church is the friary. Mass at the Shrine church is celebrated daily by Franciscan Friars.
An interesting site on the shrine grounds is the Memorial to the Unborn, completed in 2008. It's a remembrance to the many lives ended by abortions.
(Memorial to the Unborn)
Some outdoor areas we didn't visit because it was raining quite hard were the stations of the cross and a rosary walk.
We enjoyed the physical beauty of the site and its buildings. It is a quiet and peaceful place to contemplate, meditate and pray. I'd recommend a half day for a leisurely visit, although you could hurry through in a lot less time.