Set on 375 acres amid the beauty of the Berkshire Mountains, it’s a peaceful place to meditate on the mercy of God.
As Smithsonian magazine noted last year, the town is “tucked into the lush Berkshire Hills 130 miles west of Boston. [It] began its days as a mission town for Mohicans — a past that lives on in the colonial-era Mission House museum — and flourished during the Gilded Age, when it became a summer getaway for the wealthy.”
The National Shrine of the Divine Mercy, run by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, sits on Eden Hill, on the land that was the original Mohican mission. The Marian Fathers purchased the property in 1943 to use as a novitiate.
The 375-acre property is known as “Eden Hill” because of its natural beauty, said Fr. Anthony Gramlich, shrine rector.
The Marians recently re-opened the Shrine grounds for daily outdoor Mass and drive-through confessions. Unfortunately, the shrine church itself is closed due to the continuing COVID-19 crisis.
Daily Mass is offered at 2:00 p.m. in the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine. This is followed by the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and Benediction at 3:00, the hour of Divine Mercy.
Confessions are available in the shrine parking lot Monday through Friday from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. and 3:30 to 4:15 p.m.
The shrine’s website provides a succinct history:
Before the Marians moved in, many families of the Berkshires donated furniture and funds to make the first years unfold successfully. A community chapel was established in the new home with a ‘side altar’ dedicated to The Divine Mercy. As the number of pilgrims to Eden Hill increased, a larger community chapel was needed.
In 1950, the construction of the Shrine of The Divine Mercy was entrusted to Antonio Guerrieri, a 74-year-old resident of Stockbridge. He had just completed the restoration of St. Joseph’s Church in Stockbridge when the Marians called him to build their new Shrine. Guerrieri was a well respected master furniture maker and wood carver — crafts for which he had been trained in his native Italy. He had also established a reputation as a restorer, designer, and builder — all skills which he had taught himself.
Guerrieri completed the construction of the church with no blueprints — everything was inside his head. Many war refugees were engaged in the construction.
In 1960, 10 years after the Marians first broke ground, the Shrine to The Divine Mercy was dedicated.
When the church is open, visitors can admire Guerrieri’s woodcarvings, as well as 36 stained glass windows and two mosaics portraying the mercy of God through Scripture, and of course the image of Divine Mercy that was revealed to the Polish nun St. Faustina Kowalska.
Pilgrims can stay at the small St. John Paul II guest house on the grounds of Eden Hill.
Other shrines on the grounds include the Shrine of the Holy Innocents, the outdoor life-size Stations of the Cross, the Holy Family Shrine, and the Lourdes Grotto/Immaculate Conception Candle Shrine.
Most of the outdoor shrines are also candle shrines, which give pilgrims an opportunity to light a candle for a loved one. There is also an opportunity to have a candle lit in the sanctuary of the National Shrine. Eden Hill is also the home to the Marian Helpers Center, which includes a small oratory and indoor candle shrine.
For anyone seeking a taste of small-town America, Stockbridge is a good choice, both in its current form and in the ways Norman Rockwell immortalized it. The artist lived here from 1953 until his death in 1978, and today Stockbridge has the Norman Rockwell Museum.
But for anyone seeking a peaceful retreat, especially where one can meditate on God’s great mercy, a side trip to Eden Hill is open again.
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