AURIESVILLE - As the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs celebrates 125 years, people from all over are making the pilgrimage to the historic site for its anniversary celebration.
For brother and sister Mary Green and George Spannbauer, both of Philadelphia, their visit to the Shrine this weekend was a homecoming.
The siblings were visiting Glen, where they grew up, and their visit happened to coincide with the anniversary celebration.
The Leader-Herald/Amanda Whistle
Diane Woodcock, right, plays the keyboard while Paul Whitney plays guitar during the song “All are Welcome” during a Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in?Auriesville on Saturday.
They recalled memories of the Shrine as they waited to enter the 4 p.m. Vigil Mass of the Assumption on Saturday.
"Years ago there used to be boys studying to be priests who would stay here and they'd walk by our house and my mom would offer them pie and coffee," Green said. "We grew up with that."
The brother and sister smiled as they recalled singing in the choir.
"Back then the Shrine had hundreds of people coming here all summer long from all over," Spannbauer said. "I remember seeing people doing the Stations of the Cross and they had blood running down their knees. That's how devoted they were."
The mass began in the 80-year-old Coliseum with its three-tiered ceiling, designed to be symbolic of the Holy Trinity, 72 doors, symbolizing the 72 disciples. Inside the massive structure, which can seat 6,500 and accommodate 10,000, a mural with wooden carvings of Our Lady of Martyrs and the three Auriesville Martyrs stands.
On Friday, the Shrine hosted a gala in the Visitors Center. The celebration continued into Saturday with an 11:30 a.m. Mass in the Coliseum, the Vigil Mass of the Assumption at 4 p.m. and then a candlelight procession at 7:30 p.m. with Vespers sung by the New York Catholic Chorale.
Today, U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, is scheduled to present a citation for the Shrine at the Visitors Center at 1 p.m.
A Mass will be celebrated at 2 p.m. at the Coliseum.
Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard is scheduled as the presider and Provincial of the state Province of the Society of Jesus Fr. David Ciancimino, S.J., is scheduled as the homilist and concelebrant.
Shrine Director Fr. Peter J. Murray, S.J. said having the two at the Mass is a "special treat," since it's not often both of them can be present.
He said the weekend-long event has been a success and took at least a year of planning with the help of many staffers and volunteers.
"It's going pretty good," Murray said Saturday afternoon. "Some people who haven't been here in years are making a special pilgrimage.
He mentioned that he saw a couple from Brooklyn who had come to the 100 year celebration, too.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs sits on land that was the 17th-century home to a Mohawk village called Ossernenon, where three Jesuit missionaries were martyred during the 1640s.
In 1884, it was purchased by a farmer and pastor who gave it its name. This year marks the 125th anniversary of the first Mass there in August 1885.
Soon after everyone took their seats Saturday for Vigil Mass, they stood to sing the beginning lyrics of their first song, "All Are Welcome."