DE PERE — A statue, a novena and a Holy Year of Mercy. All three come together this month for the 128th annual solemn novena to St. Joseph at the Shrine of St. Joseph.
The life-size statue of St. Joseph, holding the infant Jesus, is the centerpiece of the shrine. The statue and shrine date back to the late 1800s, when Fr. Joseph Durin, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in De Pere, started the Archfraternity of St. Joseph.
“He brought with him a strong personal devotion to St. Joseph,” according to a history posted on the St. Norbert College website. “He asked Green Bay’s diocesan bishop, Frederick Katzer, to conduct a solemn blessing of the statue of St. Joseph. He then initiated a weekly novena to St. Joseph that would be conducted every Wednesday of the year.”
A solemn crowning of the statue of St. Joseph took place in 1892, with Bishop Katzer’s successor, Bishop Sebastian Messmer, officiating at the crowning ceremony.
That same year, according to St. Norbert College, Pope Leo XIII recognized the parish site as the National Shrine of St. Joseph. In 1898, two years after Fr. During died, directorship of the shrine was turned over to the Norbertine Fathers.
The weekly novena to St. Joseph is now held at 7 a.m. Wednesdays following the 6:30 a.m. Mass.
While the novenas have continued non-stop each Wednesday, the shrine did change locations.
During renovation of St. Joseph Church (now called Old St. Joseph Church, located on the campus of St. Norbert College) in 1969, the statue of St. Joseph was moved to St. Norbert Abbey. It was placed in the abbey crypt, where the weekly novenas continued for more than 45 years.
Last September, the statue was returned to Old St. Joseph Church. However, rather than resting in its original location inside the church, a shrine adjacent to the church was created in the oratory. The statue’s homecoming in its new location allows for private prayer in the shrine, which is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“By returning the statue to Old St. Joseph Church, the Norbertine Community of St. Norbert Abbey is hopeful that more people will have easier access to this historically significant practice of honoring St. Joseph’s important role in salvation history,” a press release from St. Norbert Abbey stated.
When Bishop David Ricken designated sites for holy doors within the Diocese of Green Bay for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, as directed by Pope Francis, he selected the Shrine of St. Joseph as one of three holy door sites. The other pilgrimage sites with holy doors are St. Francis Xavier Cathedral and the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion.
New etched glass holy doors were created at the Shrine of St. Joseph for the Year of Mercy.
Each March, the solemn novena to St. Joseph begins on March 10 and concludes on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19. To learn more about the solemn novena to St. Joseph or the Shrine of St. Joseph, go to snc.edu/parish/shrine.html.