BY CHERYL SLAVIN
Just in time for Easter, the Salesians of Don Bosco at the Marian Shrine, which straddles the border of Haverstraw and Stony Point, will be putting the finishing touches on a new set of interconnected walkways that wind among several religious stations, past the colossal Rosary Madonna, and end at the impressive outdoor shrine of Mary, Help of Christians.
This would represent the first time since the founding of the Shrine that all of its major statuary will be accessible from one continuous path. Repairs are also on pace for the gym building and Boys’ Dorm that had sustained damage from snow and ice this past winter.
According to Father James McKenna, director at the Shrine, the reconfigured pathways were conceived in large part by Brother Andy LaCombe, a Salesian architect. They were undertaken as part of a larger upgrade of the grounds over the past few years, starting with the construction of the new Marian chapel in 2006. Due to the construction, the statue of St. John Don Bosco had to be moved to a new location, and the Salesians began to consider innovative ways in which to make the grounds and all the shrines more accessible overall.
Ultimately the Salesians decided to move the 15 life sized marble statues depicting the Mysteries of the Rosary, which had been installed in 1954 along a “Rosary Way” in the woods, to a hilltop just past the location of the Stations of the Cross, and add paved paths that would connect the two. In their new location, the statues depicting the five Joyous Mysteries, the five Sorrowful Mysteries and the five Glorious Mysteries form a semi-circle adjacent to the 48 foot tall bronze Rosary Madonna, which has stood on the grounds since 1977.
Other shrines on the property include that of St. Pio Pietrelcina, also located along the interconnecting walkway, and the Lourdes and Fatima Shrines, located in the woods behind the Mary, Help of Christians chapel. The chapel also houses the relic of St. Don Bosco. The Lourdes and Fatima shrines, recently refurbished through two separate Boy Scout projects, still flank the former Rosary Way, marked by its high bronze angel gate, and can be accessed by a separate path in the woods behind the chapel.
The Marian Shrine occupies about 120 acres of woodlands, fields and buildings. The property was purchased by the Salesians of Don Bosco back in 1917 from the Filors family, for whom the road on which it is situated is named. Over the years, in keeping with its prime ministry dedicated to the well being of young people, the Order has focused on serving local youth through retreats and its annual summer camp. The retreat center currently consists of a gymnasium, dorms, a kitchen and dining rooms, and is also available to adults.
This past winter the roof of the Boys’ dorm partially collapsed due to the unrelenting snow and ice over a five week period. The adjacent gymnasium was not directly damaged, but was closed nonetheless until it could be inspected and shored up for safety. Currently the gym is ready to be used in time for the summer camp, and Father McKenna anticipates that the dorm will be fully operational by August. The gym roof will also undergo a separate inspection to determine what upgrades are necessary, and will be fixed as needed.
As Easter approaches, Father McKenna is very grateful for the continuing support of the Catholic community and North Rockland at large, which has enabled the Salesians to complete so many projects to improve the grounds. He expects a full house of about 600 worshippers at each of the Sunday masses, and for the first time, they can stroll among most of the different shrines on one continuous path.
With its woods, fields, and hilltop views of the Hudson River shores, the Marian Shrine is a hidden treasure of Rockland County, and welcomes pilgrims and visitors alike. The grounds also include a picnic area and recently completed public restrooms. Regular Sunday masses are held at the chapel of Mary Help of Christians at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.; weekday masses are held at 12 noon. For more information, visit the website at www.marianshrine.org or call 845-947-2200.