The celebration of the Year of Mercy in the Diocese of Burlington continues on July 17 at the "Center of Life, Light and Love" with a Jubilee for Families during a special pilgrimage Mass. It will take place at Isle LaMotte' St. Anne's Shrine at 12:15 p.m.
This will be an opportunity for families from throughout the diocese to gather to celebrate this Year of Mercy and enjoy God's gift of nature at this holy location in the diocese.
There will be a procession to the statue of St. Anne after the Mass and then a cookout.
St. Anne's Shrine – located on the shore of Lake Champlain – includes an outdoor pavilion for Mass, outdoor Stations of the Cross, a gift shop, picnic area, gardens, cafeteria, camping and retreat cabins.
"The shrine is a very special place for families to gather because of the beauty of the grounds," said Edmundite Father Brian Cummings, spiritual director there. "Families often picnic or barbecue after Mass on the beach or on the many spots on the grass. Families can recreate playing sports games, swimming, kayaking, biking, fishing or boating. The shrine provides the opportunity for families to pray together and rest in the Lord's presence in a peaceful place. Some families come by boat and tie their boats at our dock. It is a prayerful and fun destination."
The mission of St. Anne's Shrine is to serve as a welcoming place of peace and minister to all God's people through prayer, devotion, hospitality and spiritual renewal.
Father Cummings suggested visitors tour the historic chapel and visit the grottos housing statues of various saints. Walking the grounds, particularly the areas where there are new cabins, would give them a feel for the potential for family and parish overnight retreats which are welcomed here.
As early as 1666, the French erected a fort and chapel on Isle LaMotte, dedicated under the invocation of "la bonne Sainte Anne." It was here that Mass was offered for the first known time in the Northeast.
It is a unique place of pilgrimage with a rich religious tradition steeped in the history of the country's founding. French explorers brought Jesuit missionaries with them as they landed on Isle La Motte establishing Fort St. Anne.
The care and direction of the shrine was entrusted to the care of the Society of St. Edmund in 1904; the Edmundites purchased it from the Diocese of Burlington in 1921.
For more than 100 years, families have come together to worship and to celebrate their faith on the shrine grounds. "The peaceful, serene and natural surroundings of the shrine are conducive to relaxation, prayer and recreation for people of all ages," Father Cummings said.
People who visited as children often return years later with their own families to renew their relationships and faith.
"I hope the people of our diocese will join us on July 17 for a day of prayer and family fun," Father Cummings said. "We will worship together in celebrating the Eucharist, and the sacrament of reconciliation will be available. Afterwards, we will then kick back and enjoy each other's company in a relaxed setting. It should be a great celebration remembering God's mercy and giving thanks to God for the blessings in our lives. And it should be fun!"
And for those looking to stay on Isle LaMotte in scenic Grand Isle County longer than just the day, there are various other attractions. A short distance from the shrine is the Fossil Preserves, a national natural landmark. On the south end of the Island is the Fisk Quarry Preserve and the Goodsell Ridge Preserve, an ancient fossil reef almost half a billion years old. Both preserves are open to the public with a self-guided tour.
To the north, a short walk from the shrine, is the Isle LaMotte Lighthouse Station established in 1857. The lighthouse is visible from the end of the road along the shore north of the shrine.
The Isle LaMotte Historical Society is located on the island with an original blacksmith shop and cabin.
In addition the island is a popular attraction for cyclists of all ages.
Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.