|By Maria Wiering
|Tuesday, 16 June 2009
|As the Year of St. Paul draws to a close on June 29, the Cathedral of St. Paul is announcing its new designation as National Shrine of the Apostle Paul.
The Cathedral is among about 100 U.S. Catholic churches that have been honored with the designation — and it's the only one dedicated to St. Paul the Apostle, said Msgr. Anthony Sherman, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Divine Worship. The designation comes from the Holy See and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at the request of Archbishop John Nienstedt.
The title 'shrine' recognizes the Cathedral's national importance and designates it as a pilgrimage destination for groups from across the United States, said Father Joseph Johnson, the Cathedral's rector.
Already, visitors from beyond the archdiocese — Catholic and non-Catholic alike — tour the Cathedral when they visit St. Paul. Parish groups from around the Midwest have organized pilgrimages to the building, Father Johnson added.
The shrine designation may result in more pilgrims, he said. Today, the USCCB wants a national shrine to be a place that can accommodate national pilgrimages — in this case pilgrimages intended to increase devotion to the Apostle Paul, Father Johnson said.
Becoming a shrine
"We're hoping that . . . this shrine in particular might be an impetus for evangelization, that people will get the spirit of St. Paul and begin to want to try and reach out and proclaim the message of Christ," he added.
The USCCB granted the designation on March 25, but it is now just being announced by the archdiocese.
The shrine designation will add another layer to the many roles the Cathedral already plays in the community, Father Johnson said. It is a parish serving about 3,000 households; it is the mother church for the archdiocese; and it is a civic monument because of its impressive architecture and history.
Because the Cathedral often hosts group pilgrimages, it has already played a role on the national scene, Father Johnson said. However, the designation will increase its "national spiritual significance," he added.
To be considered for a shrine designation, a parish must complete a questionnaire and provide extensive information about itself, which is confirmed through a visit of a bishop on the Committee for Divine Worship. For the Cathedral, about 16 months passed from the beginning of the application process until the designation, Father Johnson said.
National shrines are designated in the United States because of a specific devotion to a saint or the Blessed Virgin Mary, Msgr. Sherman said. This devotion draws more people to the church, he added.
In the application process, the challenge lies in ascertaining whether or not a shrine designation might be able to make a unique contribution on the national level, Msgr. Sherman said.
The Cathedral began the application process when the Year of St. Paul was announced, Father Johnson said. He felt the Cathedral had a particular responsibility to heed the jubilee year's call to greater devotion to the Apostle Paul.
He also thinks the national shrine designation honors the vision of the Cathedral's founder, Father Lucien Galtier, the first priest to establish a parish in the area in 1840. Because of his devotion to the saint, he named the log chapel he built after St. Paul, which led to the name of the city.
"Father Galtier looked to the person of Paul when he arrived in this wilderness, and it's interesting that now the universal church has said we're all going to do that," Father Johnson said.
Because of the shrine designation, the Cathedral will continue some of the programming it began during the jubilee year, including its First Saturday series, which featured speakers, prayer and reflection. It already offers several weekly tours.
The new shrine has also established the Archconfraternity of the Apostle Paul to help people feel connected to the shrine, Father Johnson said. Members serve as the spiritual apostolate of the National Shrine of the Apostle Paul in five particular ways:
The designation as a national shrine does not affect its designation as the Cathedral for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Father Johnson said, since it hosts the chair, or "cathedra," of the archbishop. 'Cathedral' and 'shrine' are unrelated designations, he added.
The design for the shrine's insignia was taken from a carved medallion in the bronze grails behind the sanctuary which features a sword and a wreath, both symbols of Paul's martyrdom.