While St. Joseph Church (now to be called “St. Joseph Chapel”) was established in 1923, it was not until 25 years later that The Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was established at St. Joseph’s. The inspiration for the shrine came while St. Joseph’s pastor at the time, Rev. Dr. Bernard Mary Jarzembowski (Pastorship: 1939-1962), was attending the 1947 Marian Congress in Ottawa, Quebec, Canada, in June of that year. The motto of the Congress was the well-known spiritual tenet of St. Louis de Montfort, “Ad Jesum Per Mariam“ (To Jesus Through Mary).
The “awe-inspiring” Marian Congress (evening image shown above), organized by Ottawa Archbishop Alexandre Vachon, was called “a spiritual spectacle,” and drew nine cardinals, 19 archbishops, 120 bishops, and hundreds or even thousands of priests from around the world, along with some 200,000 lay pilgrims. Ottawa was turned into a type of open-air cathedral as Mary was praised and honored — and invoked — as the multitudes who gathered prayed to the Mother of God, asking her intercession “that the world return to Christ and to peace.” So extraordinary was the display that the Congress has been called “the greatest public religious event in the annals of the Ottawa archdiocese, and perhaps of America as a whole.” Even Life Magazine (July 14, 1947; pg. 25+) included a spread on the great event.
It is within this exceptional environment of love and honor for the Mother of God that Fr. Jarzembowski, who had a profound personal love for the Blessed Mother from an early age, spent two days in the Chapel of Peace at the Marian Congress, venerating and praying before a replica statue of Our Lady of the Cape, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary. The replica was an exact copy of the miraculous statue enshrined at Canada’s national shrine of Our Lady of the Cape at Cap-de-la-Madeleine (now Trois-Rivieres), Quebec… Here we pick up the details of the inspiration Fr. Jarzembowski received while at the Ottawa conference, and other historical information, adapted from St. Joseph parish archive documents, History of the Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in St. Joseph’s Church (undated) and Historical Highlights of the Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (1960):
It was on June 18 and 19 (1947) that Fr. Jarzembowski spent most of the hours in the Chapel, several times venerating the Statue and otherwise sitting in a pew. He was so deeply moved, kneeling before the Statue, that, according to his words, he was weeping and practically melting away with emotion all the while he was there.
Fr. Jarzembowski returned home, but the Statue stood constantly before his eyes. In only a few days, he decided to obtain a full replica of the Statue of Our Lady of the Cape for his new church which was just then under construction (St. Joseph’s was re-constructed in 1948; the first church structure was built in 1924). He, therefore, wrote to the superior of the Oblate Fathers (the caretakers of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Cape, Quebec) if he would favor him with a replica of the Miraculous Statue for
Pontiac. The good Father answered most graciously and
even went to the trouble of having the P. Carli Petrucci artists, of Montreal, execute one. (According to documentation from
the Oblate Fathers, the statue is one of only 12 such statues in
As soon as the Statue reached Pontiac, it was placed on the side altar. It is actually a statue of Our Lady of the Cape, but it is called the Statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the Consecration of the World to the Immaculate Heart, for the Golden Heart and for the Perpetual Devotion that the pastor contemplated to establish at the Shrine Altar soon after its dedication.
June 20, 1948 — Blessing of the Shrine
The Shrine was named The Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary. It was solemnly blessed by the Most Rev. Bishop Stephen S. Woznicki (Auxiliary of Detroit, later Ordinary of Saginaw), June 20, 1948. He was assisted by Msgr. Edward Szumal, rector of the Orchard Lake Seminary, Msgr. J. Leo Linsemeyer, pastor of St. Vincent’s Church and dean, of Pontiac, Very Rev. Canons Anthony Maksimik and Francis Bardel, Orchard Lake Seminary, Rev. Joseph Sielski, MIC, superior of the Marian Fathers, at Detroit (and later worldwide Superior General of the Order), Fr. Michael O’Reilly, pastor of St. Michael’s Church, Pontiac, and Frs. Joseph Milka, Anthony Oscilowicz, Francis X. Orlik, E. Smutny, E. Samson, Arthur Steslicki and Medard Medveczky, chaplain of St. Elizabeth’s Home for the Aged, Birmingham.
In addition to the Statue set on the side altar being an element of the Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, the shrine in 1948 also included a picture of Our Lady of Fatima according to the December 10, 1925 apparition to Sr. Mary of the Immaculate Heart (Lucy dos Santos, eldest seer at Fatima) bearing the words “Have Pity on the Heart of Your Most Holy Mother” (this painting is no longer in the Shrine), and an image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, popularly called “the Black Madonna.”
Two different types of Pilgrimages were held at the Shrine, the Major and the Minor. The Major Pilgrimages were held once a year on or about the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Aug. 22), always on a Sunday, and the Minor, every first Saturday of the month and on special occasions (since 1969, the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary has been celebrated the day after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (typically in June)).
It was just two months after the Shrine was solemnly blessed by Bishop Woznicki, on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, 1948, a Sunday, that the Shrine also received the First Annual Pilgrimage group. As reported in History of the Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, “a very great concourse of lovers of Mary, even from distances of hundreds of miles, by chartered busses and family automobiles, gathered at the church of St. Joseph in which the Shrine Altar is located, and on the grounds.” The pilgrimage was coordinated by Fr. Jarzembowski and Mrs. Sophie Nowosielski. About 1200 pilgrims from many states came for this first pilgrimage, even from as far as Minnesota in the west and New England states in the east. Pilgrims participating in this First Pilgrimage witnessed Fr. Jarzembowski place the Golden Heart upon the Statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary where it has remained ever since.
The Second Annual Pilgrimage was held on Sunday, August 21, 1949, Vigil of the Feast of the Immaculate Heart. On that day the statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary was crowned with the Golden Crown.
Annual Pilgrimages continued each year, always on a Sunday, on or about The Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. For each Annual Pilgrimage, a “souvenir book” was prepared (the 1962 book is shown at right). Postcards of the side altar of the Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and even medals, were also made available in various years.
In 1952, on August 17, the Statue of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Grotto-Chapel were blessed. The Statue of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, a gift of Fr. Jarzembowski, is elevated in the Grotto-Chapel; it is made of Carrara marble and was sculpted in Italy. From Historical Highlights of The Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (1960), we have these beautiful details regarding the day:
On the Sunday of the Pilgrimage (Aug. 17), Fr. Jarzembowski went in procession with the Ohio pilgrims to the Grotto before 6:00 a.m. and blessed the Statue, and chanted Mass for them in the church. Chartered buses from Saginaw, Bay City, Flint and other cities arrived before 8:00 a.m. His Excellency, Bishop Patrick Shanley, of Infanta, Quezon, Philippine Islands, came with them. He had Mass for them at 8:00. Other Masses followed, the last one at 12 noon. Pilgrims of Mt. Clemens and the Hungarian pilgrims chiefly attended this Mass.
A big solemn procession left the church with another smaller statue of Our Lady of the Cape, a gift of Detroit pilgrims…Just before the procession, Fr. Jarzembowski blessed the statue (this smaller statue appears to no longer be at the Shrine).
After the blessing of the Grotto, Bp. Shanley delivered a very inspiring sermon on the Most Blessed Virgin Mary and on devotion to Mary in the Philippines.
Rosary devotion was conducted by Fr. Jarzembowski.
Fr. Al Jarzembowski, brother of the pastor, and pastor of St. Josephat’s Church in Detroit, then brought the Most Blessed Sacrament in procession from the Church.
The Grotto-Chapel is the center of a special devotion every year on the very Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, August 22, except Sundays because Sundays must be reserved for the Annual Pilgrimages. It is sponsored by the Daughters of Isabella of the Circle of the Our Lady of the Lakes. At this devotion, there is a torchlight procession, rosary in formation of a Living Rosary, sermon, prayers with act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
August 22, 1954 – The Apostolic Benediction in the Marian Jubilee Year
1954 marked the Eighth Annual Pilgrimage. Fr. Jarzembowski received the following message from The Apostolic Delegate, His Excellency Archbishop Amleto G. Cicognani (later to become a Cardinal):
I am pleased to inform you that on the occasion of the Eighth Annual Pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary our Most Holy Father, Pope Pius XII, has very graciously deigned to bestow his special Apostolic Benediction upon the members of the First Saturday League and the Archconfraternity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at your parish.
This blessing is granted as a token of the paternal affection of His Holiness and as a pledge of heavenly favors.
While conveying this august message of the Sovereign Pontiff I wish to add my own personal felicitations to you and to the faithful dedicated to Mary in these two organizations.
With sentiments of esteem and all best wishes, I remain,
Sincerely yours in Christ, (Signed) A. G. Cicognani Archbishop of Laodicea,
Fr. Jarzembowski blessed the Crucifixion Group, and the XIII and XIV Stations, on September 27, 1953. The rest of the stations were not ready for two more years. Very Rev. Bartholomew Snella, OFM, pastor of St. Hedwig’s Church, performed the erection and solemn blessing of the Stations on the 16th of October, 1955. The outdoor Stations, some featuring statuary, remain on the property today.
The Shrine in the Later 1960s and 1970s
Fr. Jarzembowski, who received the inspiration for the Shrine in 1947 and was so deliberate and untiring in establishing it as a place of pilgrimage, love and devotion for Our Blessed Mother, died in 1962. Annual Pilgrimages to the Shrine continued until at least 1975, some 25 years after the First Annual Pilgrimage. Documents from this time illuminate the diversity of the parish population and how the Shrine elements grew to “Five Madonnas” to represent and welcome each ethnic group within the parish. The 1975 Annual Pilgrimage program shares the following, “Polish-Americans have their Lady of Czestochowa…Latin-Americans have their Lady of Guadalupe…Black-Americans have their Lady of Africa…French-Americans have their Lady of the Cape…And all other groups identify themselves with Lady of the Immaculate Heart whose statue occupies the focal point of the Grotto-Shrine.”
The Shrine Today
Today, The Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is one of only six Marian shrines in the state of Michigan, according to the University of Dayton Marian Library registry of Marian shrines. Besides The Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Pontiac, Marian shrines in the Metro Detroit area include the Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine at Assumption Grotto , Detroit; the Shrine of Ste. Anne, Detroit; and the Shrine Chapel of Our Lady of Orchard Lake. The remaining two shrines in Michigan are found outstate: St. Mary’s of Mt. Carmel Shrine in Manistee and Our Lady of the Woods Shrine in Mio.
The Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is in need of some tender care to restore it to a place of pilgrimage and Marian devotion as once was enjoyed at the Pontiac property. Under the terms of the agreement with the Archdiocese, Terra Sancta Ministries will serve as caretakers of the Shrine, including caring for its restoration and the renewal of Marian devotion. This is similar to how the Franciscans serve as caretakers for many sacred sites in the Holy Land. The primary moveable statuary of the Shrine remain under the ownership of the Archdiocese of Detroit.
Kerr, Ainslie. ‘A Man Doesn’t Rest’ When Work to be Done, The Manitoba Ensign, April 11, 1953, pg. 7; (http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=958&dat=19530411&id=79lTAAAAIBAJ&sjid=2IkDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5839,403709).
Catholics Hold Huge Congress in Canada, Life Magazine, July 14, 1947, pp. 25-31.
History of the Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in St. Joseph’s Church (undated), St. Joseph Church Archives.
Historical Highlights of the Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (1960), St. Joseph Church Archives.
University of Dayton Marian Library registry of Marian Shrines; (http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/resources/shrines/US/ShrinesUS.html#mi )