St. Vincent’s Rosary Walk and Our Lady of Knock Shrine closes in on fundraising goal  completed with your support

Upon arriving in the United States more than a century ago, a steady stream of Irish immigrants settled in Philadelphia and made tremendous contributions to the city.

Originally, the undeniable link between the Irish immigrants and their ethnic roots in the city centered on preserving their homeland identity. And one aspect of the tangible Irish presence is the connection with The Miraculous Medal Shrine. When completed, St. Vincent’s Rosary Walk & Shrine to Our Lady of Knock will bring the area’s Irish descendants one step closer to bridging their Irish bloodline with their cultural devotion to Mary.

The community’s Gaelic roots and devotion to the Blessed Mother and Miraculous Medal is strong. So much so, that the fundraising efforts for the construction of St. Vincent’s Rosary Walk and Our Lady of Knock Shrine is closing in on its $1 million goal. As this issue of the Miraculous Medal Newsletter goes to press, donors have donated and pledged over $925,000.

Without question, Philadelphia’s Irish community has deep roots in the Germantown section of Philadelphia that include the Shrine. A considerable percentage of the Irish Diaspora, whose ancestors left Ireland in the 1800s, settled in Philadelphia looking for work. Many found jobs as construction workers and contractors helping to build the Miraculous Medal Shrine and the Vincentians of the Eastern Province’s seminary in Germantown.
Our Lady of Knock statue is carved out of 1,350 lbs. of Italian Carrera marble, on a base of Connemara marble weighing 600 lbs.

Today, the development of St. Vincent’s Rosary Walk and Knock Shrine creates the perfect marriage of the group’s connection to the Shrine, its devotion to Our Lady of Knock, and the spirit of its Irish ancestry.

Moreover, for many people the Shrine is more than a transcontinental tie with their relatives on the small green island at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Many people talk about their parents meeting at the Shrine, so they feel a real kinship with the place and want to see the Knock Shrine completed. A fair number of these people continue to come to the Monday Novenas on a consistent basis.

“There is that deep, deep connection of the Irish community at the Shrine,” says Mary Jo Timlin-Hoag, CEO of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal (CAMM). CAMM oversees the fundraising and development of St. Vincent’s Rosary Walk and Shrine to Our Lady of Knock.

In addition, connecting with religious outdoor spaces, such as the Rosary Walk & Knock Shrine, is a sign and a symbol beyond the Catholic community, which includes the surrounding neighborhood. People like the outdoor experience of praying.

Fellow Irish communities care deeply about their ancestral roots and Our Lady of Knock’s message of prayer. It is a space of belief and hope. It’s important that the Shrine continues to flourish in the future. This will create an even tighter connection with the Irish because of Mary being Our Lady of Knock.

The Miraculous Medal Shrine was built in Germantown as a way for Fr. Joseph Skelly, C.M. to thank our Blessed Mother for her blessing of the growth of the Vincentian missions to support the poor.

In 1927, construction began and with the help of the local community of mostly Irish immigrants, the beautiful shrine was completed in record time. Since December 8, 1930, the perpetual novena has been said continuously on Mondays. Not even the COVID- 19 pandemic could stop it, with our prayers being live-streamed when the actual building was closed.

The building itself has several shrines to the Blessed Mother in the lower level. Each one is special to a certain population, yet equally adored by everyone who visits the Shrine. A few years ago, it was noted that there was no shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Knock, the Irish Mary, in spite of the fact that the Irish community was so integral in building the original Miraculous Medal Shrine. And that was how the idea for this project was born.

In honor of our Blessed Mother and in appreciation for the power of prayer, especially for her Rosary, we broke ground on St. Vincent’s Rosary Walk & Our Lady of Knock Shrine last October. This Rosary Walk will be a spiritual sanctuary to help the faithful experience the Rosary as they stroll along a beaded path and pray their favorite mysteries.

The walk has been completed, the rosary beads, Celtic cross, and Trinity Knot have been installed. Our meditation garden and landscaping have been planted and we are now anxiously awaiting the building of the stone grotto. When that is finished, the mosaic and statue will be installed, and our sacred space will be opened to welcome all those who wish to experience the love of God and Mary.

Thanks to your generosity, we have made tremendous progress toward meeting our $1 million dollar goal. We have raised over $925,000, and we turn to our loyal friends like you to help us raise the remaining $75,000.

With grateful hearts, we continue to express our sincere gratitude to you — the faithful stewards of our Shrine community. Your caring support and your love for Mary inspire us as we continue to draw closer to completing the Our Lady of Knock Shrine.

Fr. Shea, Sports Fan and Champion of Our Mother Mary 

A Giants fan and an Eagles fan walk into a church… it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke but the reality is, that is Fr. Michael Shea, CM at his best. Fr. Shea, Associate Director of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal, has been making connections and welcoming people of faith, regardless of where their sports loyalties lie, most of his life.
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The only boy among five sisters, the Shea family was close-knit and doted on their baby brother. They also had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. It was like Mary knew Michael should become a part of the Vincentian family at that young age. To him, the Vincentians were welcoming and friendly. He felt at home and appreciated their lifestyle and demeanor and the deep value of education.
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In 1954 he entered St. John’s Prep, in Brooklyn, NY where Our Blessed Mother had big plans for Michael. Following his graduation from St. John’s Prep, Michael went right into St. Joseph’s Seminary at Princeton.

After four years in college, he spent two years as a novitiate and finally four additional years studying theology. He was ordained a priest in the Congregation of the Mission Vincentians Eastern Province, USA and came down to Philadelphia to begin his career in education.
At St. Thomas More High School, Fr. Shea established lifelong relationships with his students. To this day, he is the chaplain for the St. Thomas More Alumni Association, saying Mass before every meeting and being a part of the men’s lives in every way. As a teacher and as a member of the athletic department at St. Thomas More, West Catholic, and Archbishop Wood, Fr. Shea incorporated sports with preaching. He continued to do this as he went on to teach at Niagara University and be the Athletic Director and finally his time at Auburn University in the office of campus ministry.

After more than twenty years in education, Fr. Shea went to St. Lazare’s retreat house in Michigan. For almost seventeen years, Fr. Shea made connections with the people in Spring Lake, Michigan. Finally, much to our blessing, Our Lady brought Fr. Shea back to Philadelphia as the Associate Director of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal in 2010.

You will find Fr. Shea wherever you need him. In need of some homemade bread? Call Fr. Shea, it is his specialty. Want to talk sports? He is your man. Have you lost a loved one and you need a comforting voice to guide you through your loss? Fr. Shea will help.

Fr. Shea finds common ground to preach and share the good news with you, even if you are an Eagles fan. In typical Vincentian fashion, Fr. Shea is the humblest man you will ever meet. When we began planning for our first million-dollar capital campaign at CAMM, we reached out to Fr. Shea to ask for his assistance.
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He suggested, “Why don’t I go to some of the local parishes? Promoting the Blessed Mother and her Miraculous Medal is our Vincentian mission. I can provide the parishes with a week of Marian prayer and we can say a novena to Our Lady of Knock. We’ll see what happens,” he said.
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We have seen what has happened as we approach our $1,000,000 goal. He has been the biggest cheerleader for the St. Vincent’s Rosary Walk & Shrine to Our Lady of Knock. Fr. Shea has said people are responding overwhelmingly not because of him, but because of Our Lady. We also know that people are inspired by Fr. Shea because his passion for Our Lady shines through in every conversation.
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When you come to visit St. Vincent’s Rosary Walk & Shrine to Our Lady of Knock, you will see along the path the bricks and beads in honor of our dear Fr. Michael Shea. He deserves every bit of praise, and humbly accepts it. We are grateful for his commitment to Our Blessed Mother and for his generosity. We are so thankful to his family for sharing him with us and for generously supporting him. All the parishes that have responded and the alumni of St. Thomas More have given in honor of Fr. Michael Shea. Fr. Shea’s legacy is still being formed as he continues to preach, pray and counsel our Marian devotees, and his legacy is one of love — for his confreres, his students, his parishioners, his devotees, and for Our Blessed Mother.

Your support has helped distribute 2.5 million Miraculous Medals since 2018

He initially served with the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Baltimore. But in 1904 was appointed as prefect of St. Vincent’s. A decade later, Fr. Skelly was placed in charge of raising funds to build a new Vincentian seminary in Princeton, New Jersey.

By this time, Fr. Skelly had developed a profound interest in the story of Catherine Labouré, the French novice who in 1830 encountered three apparitions of Mary and was instructed by the Blessed Mother to create the medal that would later become known as the Miraculous Medal.

Fr. Skelly had read of the many miracles attributed to the medal by those seeking Mary’s intercession, so he enclosed a small version of the medal in each fundraising letter he sent.

The response to this simple act of faith was so resounding that in 1915 Fr. Skelly founded the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal to perpetuate their distribution. Devotion to the Blessed Mother through her medal blossomed in America and worldwide in the ensuing years. Which inspired Fr. Skelly to direct the creation of the Miraculous Medal Shrine at the Vincentians’ Chapel of the Immaculate Conception in 1927.

Three years later, on December 8, 1930, Fr. Skelly initiated the Perpetual Novena. This weekly devotional prayer has been held at the Shrine every Monday without interruption for more than nine decades. Today, devotees from around the world can also participate in the Perpetual Novena virtually by tuning in live each week via YouTube or Facebook.

In the final 50 years of his life, Fr. Skelly produced and distributed tens of millions of Miraculous Medals and other devotional materials to recipients from almost every nation on Earth. He died on July 8, 1963, at age 89 and is interred in the St. Vincent’s Seminary crypt mere footsteps from the landmark shrine that continues to beckon prayerful pilgrims to the foot of Mary’s altar.

Your prayerful generosity has seen us follow in Fr. Skelly’s footsteps to distribute 2.5 million Miraculous Medals over the past five years alone. With the continuing support of those like you, millions more medals will be distributed to our brothers and sisters in the years to come.

And you will help millions more have the opportunity for the special graces that Mary has promised those who wear her medal.

Following the legacy of Fr. Joseph Skelly, CM. who played a leading role in the founding of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal and the Miraculous Medal Shrine, each inspired by Marian devotion, we have continued to distribute Mary’s Miraculous Medal throughout the country.

Fr. Skelly was born in Philadelphia’s Germantown section on March 24, 1874. He would spend most of the next 89 years living and working within walking distance of his boyhood home. Young Joseph entered the St. Vincent’s Seminary near his home in 1895 and was ordained into the priesthood at Philadelphia’s St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in 1900.

Your generous support helps fund our Beyond Sunday™ programs here at Mary’s Shrine.

These programs provide unique and engaging retreats and pilgrimages that enable youth, young adults, and people of all ages to learn about our Catholic faith and develop a deeper Marian devotion. The programs are held both at the Shrine and virtually to serve the faithful around the globe. 

Two of our Beyond Sunday™ programs are:

Sacramental Retreats for Children This year our First Holy Communion Retreats prepared children to receive Jesus Christ and be truly present in the Eucharist. Our Reconciliation Retreats gave them a fuller understanding of the richness of the sacrament and the opportunity to receive it at the Shrine. 

In addition, our Confirmation Retreats provided young people with the chance to enjoy the beauty and richness of the Shrine and prepare to receive the final Sacrament of Initiation.

Backpack Blessing 

In celebration of Catholic Schools Week 2022 (January 30 to February 5), we brought Mary’s message of the Miraculous Medal to area schools.

The blessing was presented by Deacon James Mahoney with a greeting from Gina Ingiosi, Faith Formation and Outreach Coordinator. It included distributing and blessing Miraculous Medals and presenting each student with a prayer card.

The students were also invested into the Miraculous Medal family. Dozens of schools participated in person and virtually. Students proudly displayed their medals at the event. More than 400 students participated.

Through your support of these and all our Beyond Sunday™ programs, the next generation of Catholics is strengthened in their faith, even while living in a world full of challenges. And through it, they discover peace, joy, and a closer relationship with Mary and her Son.
© The Central Association of the Miraculous Medal 2024