Since 1927, the Shrine of Our Lady of LaSalette in Enfield, New Hampshire, had received pilgrims and visitors in search of a deeper relationship with God through our Lady’s intercession. “The physical grounds, chapel, and story of the LaSalette revelations has given them an escape from the world to a place of hope,” said Father Lance Harlow, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish based in St. Johnsbury.

So when the shrine closed earlier this year, he didn’t want Our Lady’s message to get lost.

At the same time, he had become increasingly aware of “a three-fold problem in all of our communities” of drug addiction, drug trafficking, and fatal drug overdoses. “I realized we have to do more than just talk about the problem, but we had to go to the heart of the weeping mother who invites her children to ‘come closer,’” he said.

The situation prompted Father Harlow to dedicate the parish’s first Saturday 8:30 a.m. Masses exclusively to the honor of Our Lady of LaSalette, Reconciler of Sinners, for:

+ healing of those addicted to drugs,

+ an end of drug trafficking in the community, and

+ the repose of the souls of those who have died because of drug overdoses.

“Every day as a priest, and during my monthly healing services, people tell me about their anxieties for loved ones addicted or those who have died,” said Father Harlow who, in his 30 years’ ministry, has dealt with drug addicts throughout the diocese who have hurt themselves and others — ranging from selling their own babies, stealing money from their families and dying of overdoses and “everything else in between.”

The drug abuse problem is “of epidemic proportions in our towns,” he continued. “But it is not limited to the individual addicts. The problem extends to those who sell the drugs to keep people addicted and all the violent crimes associated with drug trade, sexual exploitation of addicts, torture, and murder.”

Father Harlow, who in recent years had conducted an annual healing service at the Enfield shrine, explained what LaSalette is about: Mary appeared as the weeping Virgin to the shepherd children, Melanie and Maximin. She appeared seated with her head in her hands, tearing running down her cheeks. She invited them to come more closely to her and explained to them how to get closer to God.

“The image of the woman shedding tears for her children (the human race) is an appropriate image for the thousands of mothers, fathers, siblings, and friends who are distressed over the plight of their family members and friends addicted to drugs and alcohol and whose lives are in ruins,” he said. “Our Lady of LaSalette is the mother of hope that with God, with repentance and healing, there is the possibility for a new life of grace.”

The First Saturday Masses constitute a spiritual work of mercy fulfilling the precept of praying for the living and the dead. “As the Mass is the most powerful source of healing in the world, and as Our Lady is the most powerful intercessor before her son, Jesus, then the celebration of the Mass for these intentions must by its very nature bear fruit,” Father Harlow said.

The inaugural Mass was Oct. 7, the Feast of the Holy Rosary and Our Lady’s victory over evil.

Father Harlow’s immediate hope is that priests will share this information with their parishioners so that he will receive names from throughout the Diocese of Burlington. His long-term dream is to establish a hermitage devoted to Our Lady of LaSalette whose contemplative focus will be to pray for the healing of addictions, drug trafficking, and fatal overdoses.

To include intentions at the First Saturday Masses, send all names (living and deceased) to Names will not be announced at Mass. Do not send money.

—Originally published in the Winter 2023 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.