With COVID-19 restrictions gradually lifting, many area shrines are beginning to once again welcome visitors – but devotions will look a little different for now.
As with archdiocesan parish liturgies, face masks, social distancing and sanitation are required for shrine pilgrims, who are advised to stay home if they are experiencing any possible coronavirus symptoms.
Missals, prayer booklets and printed materials have been removed. Restrooms, gift shops and cafeterias are largely closed, and touching or kissing relics is off limits for the foreseeable future.
At the Shrine of St. Gianna Beretta Molla — located at Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Warminster – the gloves and pieces of clothing worn by the Italian pediatrician “will remain under glass for the present,” said Father Joseph Watson, pastor.
“When it becomes safe for veneration, the relics will be made available once again,” he said.
In South Philadelphia, reopening the National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia has been a “slow but intentional” process, said director Jonathan Jerome.
Although “prudent,” he said the need “to keep the lower shrine closed to the public at a time like this” has been “especially difficult.”
“We know it’s become an important place of prayer, reconciliation, peace and healing for so many people,” Jerome said.
With shrine visitors coming from well beyond the five-county archdiocesan area, getting the word out about revised schedules and access has been difficult at times, he added.
Since gathering sizes remain limited, shrines have cancelled group retreats and large-scale events – such as the annual Polish American Festival, which has been hosted every September for more than 50 years at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown.
The festival is “the shrine’s main fundraiser,” said spokeswoman Helen Masiorski, who noted that “a virtual telethon-type event” will take its place this year.
Livestreaming of Masses and prayer services, which shrines had initiated well before the pandemic, will continue.
Such technology has long been standard at the Miraculous Medal Shrine in Philadelphia, which will reopen on June 14 with a 9 a.m. Mass.
At some shrines, staffing has been stretched thin by the labor-intensive sanitation procedures required to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
As a result, on weekdays the National Shrine of St. John Neumann will offer only one Mass at 12:15 p.m., said Redemptorist Father Richard Bennett, who serves as pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Parish, where the shrine is housed.
“Given the challenges, we’re starting off with one Mass per day” to allow adequate time for preparing for the next day’s liturgy, he said.
Despite the hurdles, area shrine directors are grateful to be opening their doors after a long hiatus.
“Last weekend, we were excited to offer our first public Mass in over 10 weeks,” said Jerome. “It was really wonderful to celebrate with so many devoted patrons of our shrine.”
More than ever, the saints provide an example for navigating widespread uncertainty.
Father Bennett speculated that St. John Neumann would be “flexible and adaptable” under current conditions.
“Those qualities are part of the hallmarks of a saint,” he said.
Following are the current hours for shrines within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Please contact the shrines directly for the most updated information.
Miraculous Medal Shrine
(500 E. Chelten Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19144)
Mondays: 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Perpetual Novena and Mass (Mondays): 9 a.m. and 12:05 p.m.; limited attendance; livestreamed on Facebook (@miraculousmedalshrinepa)
Confessions (Mondays): 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
Tuesdays – Fridays: Private prayer from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.; Mass at 12:05 p.m.
Saturdays: Closed to the public
The shrine’s gift shop, restrooms and lower shrines remain closed until further notice.
National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa
(654 Ferry Road, Doylestown, PA, 18901)
All Masses are according to the shrine’s regular schedule, with Monday-Saturday Masses in Our Lady’s Chapel (downstairs) and all Sunday Masses in the Main Church (upstairs). No group retreats are being hosted at this time, and this year’s Polish American Festival has been cancelled, with a virtual telethon to replace it.
Saturdays: Vigil Mass at 5 p.m. (English)
Sundays: Masses at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. (Polish); 8 a.m., 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. (English)
Weekdays: 7:30 a.m., 8 a.m., 11:30 a.m. (English)
Confessions are heard during all scheduled Masses on Sundays and at 11 a.m. on weekdays.
The National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia
(1166 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19146)
The shrine’s upper church is open, but the lower shrine and gift shop remain closed until Pennsylvania enters the “green” phase of COVID-19 restrictions.
Daily Mass: Monday-Saturday in the upper church at 12 p.m. The upper church is open for prayer Monday-Saturday from 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Weekend Mass: Vigil Mass at 5 p.m. (Saturday) in the upper church; Sunday at 10 a.m. in the upper church.
Confessions: Monday-Saturday in the upper church at 10:45 a.m.
The National Shrine of St. John Neumann
(1019 N. 5th Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19123)
Masses are celebrated in the shrine’s upper church. The shrine’s gift shop will reopen on Monday, June 15 with weekday hours of 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Mondays-Saturdays: Mass at 12:15 p.m. (English)
Vigil Mass (Saturday) at 5:30 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. (English), 11 a.m. (Spanish)
Confessions: 5 p.m. on Saturdays
Shrine of St. Gianna Beretta Molla
(located at Nativity of Our Lord Parish, 605 Street Road, Warminster, PA, 18974)
The shrine is accessible during the hours the church is open, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Relics are not available for veneration but remain under glass. Contact the parish office at 215-675-1925 to confirm church hours.
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