Marian Pilgrimage, Marge Fenelon, House of Mary, Shrine

House of Mary Shrine – St. Joseph Chapel Copyright 2018, Marge Fenelon

We’re inundated on a regular basis about the wonders of what money can do. It can buy us beauty, prestige, happiness, and a longer life. Or so we’re told.

I personally don’t subscribe to any of those – not just because I never have had, nor likely never will have that kind of money to spend, but because for the most part, it’s all hogwash.

Money has no real power, no matter how much you have. Or so I thought. My perception changed when I visited House of Mary Shrine in Yankton, South Dakota.

There, money in and of itself has no power. But, what Ed and Jean English did with their money has had real power for themselves and the countless visitors to House of Mary Shrine each year.

Marian Pilgrimage, Marge Fenelon, House of Mary, Lewis and Clark, Shrine

Copyright 2018, Marge Fenelon

In 1957, the English’s obtained a prime 640-acre piece of land near the banks of Lewis & Clark Lake in Yankton. The land would be perfect for recreation areas and subdivisions. Before making definite plans for the land, Ed and Jean prayed to Mary, asking her guidance in this matter. Excited about their fortunate land purchase, the couple took their friend, a Catholic priest and Chaplain of nearby Mount Marty College, on a tour of their treasure. After the tour, the priest advised them not to divide and sell all of the land but rather urged them to save a portion of it as an “edifice for God.” They heeded his plea and saved 45 acres for just that purpose.

Thus began the House of Mary Shrine.

Marian Pilgrimage, House of Mary, Shrine, Marge Fenelon

Copyright 2018, Marge Fenelon

After a failed attempt to build a chapel on the highest hill of the property, a small cottage was converted into a “House of Mary” and was used by a group called the Rosary Makers to make rosaries that were then shipped throughout the world. Their goal was to reinvigorate the then high for diminishing devotion to the holy Rosary.

Marian Pilgrimage, Marge Fenelon, House of Mary, Shrine, Lewis & Clark

Miraculous Ring, original photo, Jean English. Copyright 2018, Marge Fenelon

As they worked and prayed, they dreamt of a means by which to replace the Chapel on the Hill.  They decided to erect three large crosses (more than 70 feet tall) on the hill in place of the chapel. A miraculous ring appeared around the sun just as each cross was set in its place and the group took this as confirmation that they were on the right path with their dreams for the land. Gradually, the Stations of the Cross were added, winding their way up the hill. A replica of Christ’s tomb was built just below the hill’s cap as well. Cascading fountains were added and a Rosary pool constructed at the hill’s base and a chapel to St. Joseph was built beside it. Finally, a Way of the Saints, featuring monuments to 49 different saints – with room for more to be added – was formed and a gift shop/museum was constructed from a donated one-room schoolhouse that had been moved to the site. Plans continue for further development of the land.

Marian Pilgrimage, House of Mary, Shrine, Marge Fenelon, Lewis and Clark

House of Mary Shrine – St. Joseph Chapel Sanctuary Copyright 2018, Marge Fenelon

Most remarkable is that all of this has been accomplished by volunteers dedicated to turning a beautiful tract of land into a place to find peace, grace, and time with God and our Mother Mary. Groups of students from local schools and universities come to help with special projects and the Knights of Columbus have been instrumental as well. The shrine survives solely on donations from individuals and the interest from a small endowment left by Ed and Jean English. While roaming the property, one would think the entire structure had been built and is maintained by paid professionals!

The contrast of history struck me as I stood on the hill overlooking Lewis & Clark Lake. More than two hundred years ago, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark forged their way through the area on the Corps of Discovery Expedition and revealed its majestic charm. In 1957, Ed and Jean Weller re-discovered it and committed it to God’s glory.

It’s an edifice for God, a testimony to the power of money when used for God’s glory.


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