This roadside Catholic monument is open once more to the public, but remember to bring a mask.
As of May 4, the Holy Family Shrine in Nebraska has reopened to pilgrims and faithful who wish to visit and pray at the gorgeous roadside facility. While they have not yet begun holding church services again, the grounds are open for exploration by anyone who wishes to discover or deepen their Catholic faith through contemplative prayer.
The Holy Family Shrine was envisioned in 1993 by four Catholics who, as the Shrine’s website reports, were called together for the project. The designs, permits, funding, and constructions took nine years to realize, and the Shrine was finally completed in 2002. It opened with the mission to provide an opportunity for people to discover and develop their Catholic faith. They write of their mission:
The Shrine intends to call the desire within the human heart through developments that do not distract, but are complementary to the Holy Spirit. For, “One cannot believe in Jesus Christ without sharing in his Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who reveals to men who Jesus is.” It is with premise that the Holy Family Shrine relies solely on the intervention of the Holy Spirit to discover and develop the faith within visitors. The example of the Holy Family Shrine serves as the example of a model of human life of response to the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the enriched knowledge and awareness of the lives of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph call us to serve in similar ways to do God’s will to reach eternal life.
Upon entering the Holy Family shrine, one is greeted with a beautiful wood-paneled visitor’s center and gift shop, all centered around a steel sculpture representing Christ’s shroud as it fell from him upon the Resurrection. From the sculpture, water flows down a track and into a small pool below it, which then slowly trickles in a stream that moves under the entire church. The stream can be seen from the pews, where there are small holes cut into the stone floor to make the water visible at all times.
The structure of the shrine is fascinating to look at. Considering it was made primarily of stone, wood, and glass, the architecture astounds the senses with a bare-bones feel that raises the question of how it stays standing. The web of red cedar that creates the walls is symbolic of wheat waving in the wind, to remind visitors of Jesus, who is the “bread of life.”
The walls of the chapel are adorned with beautiful brass moldings of the stations of the cross, and the window behind the altar features a glass etching of the Holy Family. Outside, there is a short path that leads to a grotto dedicated to the Blessed Mother, where one can pray in relative solitude among the wonderful Nebraska landscape.
As we mentioned before, the Holy Family Shrine is open for visitors, although they are not currently holding services. Their current hours of operation are Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Visitors are expected to follow the usual coronavirus guidelines: they must wear a mask and keep a healthy social distance. They also note that hand sanitizer is available to use throughout the visit.