Bishop Anthony B. Taylor welcomed Catholics to St. Edward Church in Little Rock to make pilgrimages to the Diocesan Shrine of Divine Mercy, dedicated June 11, the feast of Corpus Christi.
“This shrine is to be a place of pilgrimage, a place of eucharistic adoration inaugurated in this time of national Eucharistic Revival and a place to experience divine mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation and through the reception of indulgences at this shrine, which is one thing that sets this shrine apart from all other places of worship in our diocese and thus making it a place of pilgrimage,” Bishop Taylor told more than 550 people packed into St. Edward Church.
It is the second Catholic shrine in the state. Our Lady of the Ozarks Shrine is located in Winslow (Washington County).
The day began with Mass for more than 450 people at the Cathedral of St. Andrew. Bishop Taylor was assisted by six priests and three deacons. After Mass, the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus, Knights and Ladies of Holy Sepulchre and the congregation followed the bishop and clergy down Seventh Street, escorted by Little Rock police. Bishop Taylor carried the monstrance while the St. Edward Church choir led the music. The half-mile procession stopped at three stations where the Vietnamese and Hispanic communities and high school students sang and the bishop led prayers.
Another 100 people joined the pilgrims inside St. Edward Church where Bishop Taylor signed a decree in English and Spanish establishing the diocesan shrine, inviting “all who wish to partake in its blessings and experience the profound grace that emanates from its sacred grounds.”
Bishop Taylor announced the shrine's establishment in December as part of the diocesan synod and parishioners’ request for more spiritual opportunities.
Pastor Father Juan Manjarrez and area priests will provide Mass, adoration and confessions daily except Mondays. (See sidebar for schedule.)
Bishop Taylor used his homily to explain indulgences and how pilgrims can obtain a partial or plenary indulgence by visiting the shrine. (See sidebar for details.)
Parish council member Pat Eichler, a parishioner for more than 40 years, said she was in awe after attending the ceremony. She is hopeful the new shrine will bear many fruits for the parish.
“The bishop spoke to (the parish council) last year and said we think your church is the prime place to have this shrine,” she said. “He said you are so close to the expressway, easy access off the highway, and we are across the street from the Museum of Fine Arts. He felt our church was well-positioned to have people want to come to visit the shrine and hopefully build up our parish rolls and create new members … The folks participating in the service were awe-struck like everyone else was. They were in awe of the solemnity of the occasion as well the peacefulness that came over the church after the ceremony got underway.”
Stephen Garcia, member of St. John the Baptist Church in Cabot, attended the ceremony with his wife Adeline and three young boys.
“The opportunity to be at the foundation of the shrine is an honor,” he said. “It’s something I didn’t want my family to miss. We will definitely come back.”
St. Edward Parish was founded in 1884 to minister to German immigrants who made their way to Arkansas, served by Benedictine priests and nuns. The current church, across the street from MacArthur Park, was built in 1901 and dedicated in 1905. The Gothic Revival church is decorated with German-made altars, stained-glass windows and 14 Stations of the Cross. In the 1990s, the church grew with an influx of Spanish-speaking Catholics.
The new Divine Mercy Shrine in the south transept of the church was blessed by Bishop Taylor. The painted relief carving of Jesus with one hand raised in benediction and the other resting on his heart was created by liturgical artist George Hoelzeman, a member of Sacred Heart Church in Morrilton.
An image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was previously located where the Divine Mercy image was installed. The Marian artwork will be relocated to the new adoration chapel under construction in the former school building, Eichler said.
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