AURIESVILLE - The Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs is celebrating its 125th anniversary.
While the season was scheduled to begin with a mass Saturday, there are many special events planned for the season.
Beth Lynch, event coordinator and museums manager at the shrine, said among the special events planned this season is the visit of Father Mitch Pacwa in June.
The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor
Three crosses — bearing the last names of the missionaries martyred at the site of what is now the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in?Auriesville — are shown Wednesday.
According to the Ignatius Productions website - www.ignatiusproductions.org - Pacwa is a biblical scholar who has hosted international radio and television programs. He also is known for his appearances on the TV station, EWTN.
Lynch said the annual Polish pilgrimage in August also will bring Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit this season.
"We also will have our regular events that we have every season," she said.
One things visitors to the shrine will notice this year is that there are no longer separate museums for the three martyrs and Kateri Tekawitha. Starting this season, they will both be in one building - the Saints of Auriesville Museum and Media Center.
"All of the work was worth it," Lynch said.
One side of the building has information about the three missionaries - St. Father Isaac Jogues, St. Rene Goupil and St. John Lalande - who were martyred at the site of the shrine in the 1640s. The other side tells visitors about the beatified "Lily of the Mohawks," Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha.
Lynch noted the shrine still continues the mission the martyrs started long ago.
"We are still evangelizing here," she said.
Lynch said the fact the shrine is celebrating its 125th season is significant, noting that the U.S. is only about twice as old.
According to information from the shrine, about 500,000 visitors stopped at the shrine in 1957. Through the 1960s to the mid 1980s, the number of annual visitors was around 250,000.
Lynch said while the number of visitors annually has dropped off from years past, she expects to see more this year given the historical significance of the season.
She also said those who have been visiting the shrine still feel a genuine spiritual connection to the place.
When a visiting scholar inquired about why people visit the shrine, Lynch said, she responded that it was the ground itself that brought visitors in because people can feel it is sacred.
"I know it sounds cliche, but people do sense it," she said.
Lynch noted the martyrs provide role models for people. Visitors can stop the shrine and connect with something that has substance and a profound history.
That connection may account for why the shrine has grown so much over the years.
In 1885, the shrine consisted of a wooden cross, a tiny chapel and 10 acres of land.
According to the shrine's website, the shrine has more than 400 acres of land. There are five chapels, a candle shrine, Jesuit cemetery, a visitor center and gift shop.
For more information about the shrine and events planned at the location, visit the shrine's website at www.martyrshrine.org