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The Catholic community at Philadelphia’s Miraculous Medal Shrine has had a year of celebration after the Vatican elevated the historic parish church to minor Basilica status. Now called the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, its elevation makes it the second basilica in Philadelphia – alongside the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul – and brought the total number of basilicas in the US up to 92.
Father Timothy V. Lyons, CM, rector of the Basilica Shrine, hailed its elevation, commenting to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia:
“It is an esteemed honor to be recognized by the Vatican as a Minor Basilica. We are both overjoyed and humbled by this recognition. This historic proclamation marks the next chapter in the Shrine’s history and recognizes the significant role it has played in the Catholic Church, the Philadelphia Archdiocese, and the Shrine community.”
According to the Archdiocese’s announcement, the Basilica Shrine has been a place of significance to Catholics of the Pennsylvania region for 140 years. Its origins reach back to the arrival of Vincentian priests in the 1840s, who sought to erect a chapel for priests and seminarians. At the request of the Archdiocese, however, they changed their plans and instead opened its doors for liturgical celebrations and pastoral assistance to the largely poor, working-class surrounding neighborhood, in 1878.
At its inception as a parish church, it was known simply as the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, but the growth of the community led the Vincentians to expand the chapel into the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal in 1927. The initial chapel still exists within its walls, now a historic part of the basilica.
Since 1930, the parish has held a Perpetual Novena of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal every Monday, a tradition that the Basilica Shrine will continue. The Novena is streamed weekly on Facebook and Instagram.
The new minor basilica status brings with it certain distinctions and honorifics. For instance, the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal may now celebrate the feast of the Chair of St. Peter; the solemnity of the Holy Apostles, Peter, and Paul; and the anniversary of the pope’s election into pastoral ministry. In addition, it is now an even more significant site of pilgrimage.
Pilgrims and tourists alike will find the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal brimming with historic and artistic value. The building boasts dozens of breathtaking artworks, sculptures, stained glass, and murals. As a pièce de résistance, visitors can marvel at the historic 125-foot bell tower equipped with Carillon Bells – a series of 23 bells played by keyboard – that have been in use since 1901. You can hear the bells in the video featured below.
Archbishop Nelson Pérez of Philadelphia expressed his gratitude to Pope Francis for the elevation, a process that took years in the making. He commented to the Archdiocese:
“I am deeply grateful to the Holy Father for bestowing this tremendous honor on the Miraculous Medal Shrine. This moment is one of great joy for the entire Church in Philadelphia. The Miraculous Medal Shrine is a great gift drawing souls closer to Christ through the intercession of the Blessed Mother. I congratulate the Vincentians and all those working to sustain the Shrine and its ministry. May their work continue to bear great fruit.”