Reflection on Shrine: Father Mark Joseph Costello
In 2006, liturgical design consultant Father Mark Joseph Costello received an invitation from the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, to work on the design of the Shrine for Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.
Eight years later, that invitation turned into reality as the Shrine for Saint Mother Theodore Guerin sprung to life.
On Saturday, Oct. 25, Father Mark Joseph had the opportunity to witness the fruits of all of the labor as the shrine was officially opened to the public. Hundreds of pilgrims arrived on the opening day to see the shrine for the first time.
“I think this place gives them an opportunity to enter into the story of a remarkable woman,” Father Mark Joseph said. “I believe her life is presented simply, but is also filled with rich detail that will interest. This place will help anyone who comes to it to understand the context in which she lived.
“I think for the young, for those interested in Indiana history, or the struggle of immigrants, this place will offer an ‘education.’ For those who come as ‘spiritual seekers,’ there are many invitations to connect their lives to the life of a saint, she who faced many challenges that deepened her faith in God and her love of people.”
Eight years ago, Sister Marie McCarthy invited Father Mark Joseph to meet with the sisters. The following year, he and officials with McBride, Kelley and Baurer architects submitted a proposal to construct the master plan for the shrine.
“As a design consultant, the first work was to create a vision for the shrine,” Father Mark Joseph said. “We also studied the types of shrines that exist in the Roman Catholic tradition and reviewed church documentation that pertains to shrines.”
Father Mark Joseph said his time with the sisters while working on the shrine was wonderful.
“I wouldn’t say that the average parish with whom I work is not engaged in their story and project, but with the Sisters of Providence, the engagement is very deep and comes from a lived experience,” he said. “The sisters would regularly quote Mother Theodore, or relay stories in a way that made her very alive and current. I have not experienced such a familiarity among my Capuchin brothers with the founders of my own community. I think the sisters’ engagement is somewhat unique.”
Father Mark Joseph added after seeing the completed project, visually speaking, he was pleased.
“There are many quotes of Saint Mother Theodore, which follows my experience of her words living in the current Sisters of Providence,” he said. “The rooms of the shrine show contrasts, colors and artifacts that seem to bring her world to us from across time.
“I think her life can resonate with many folks of many traditions. She is not on a pedestal somewhere. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin lived a life ‘on the ground,’ and by doing this in integrity and with love, made this place sacred. One does not need to be a Catholic to connect to the way she lived her life. She may have been a religious sister in the 19th Century, but her story is bigger than her era or context. I think people who come here will get that.”