Wayside Chapels

The Curran Spirituality Center, built in the past few years and blessed by the Bishop for public use.

During my recent trip to Wisconsin I was delighted to learn of a wayside chapel near to where I was staying, which was, itself, amidst the rolling farmland — not far from a big city, but very rural. Now usually, when one encounters such chapels they are old, from a bygone era of devotion and faith. Not in this case. This one was brand new.

When I’m in the money, I’m going to build wayside chapels.

It’s called the Curran Spirituality Center and was built by one Fr. O’Brien, who seems to be a zealous older priest; I think he built it on family land. Curran, if I’m not mistaken, is the name of the village or municipality in which it is located.

What you see as you’re approaching from the parking lot.

It’s open during daylight hours for anyone to stop and say a prayer and/or light a candle. Here is the view as you approach to enter:

The door has a key code, so presumably those who have the code could enter at other times; but it’s unlocked and accessible to all during the day.

The Blessed Sacrament is not reserved here; it is a blessed space (dedicated by Bishop Ricken a couple of years back) — a quiet place to stop “along the way”. Here is what you see upon opening the doors:

I get the sense that Fr. O’Brien has a strong devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows, not only from the lovely Pietà replica statue but also from some of the literature on the Seven Sorrows of Mary that he had available for the taking inside.

I mentioned that he appears to be a zealous priest. This was my impression not only from the fact that he had this chapel built, but also from the Catholic Primer books that he has inside. These are spiral-bound books of prayers, devotions, and Catholic “info” that he appears to have compiled to help teach and strengthen the faith. There were also slips of paper with an address that visitors could write to, to obtain a free copy of said book.

What a lovely idea and a marvelous accomplishment!

If you have land and some money, you should consider building such a chapel. If here in the Diocese of Birmingham, drop me a line and I will offer feedback and then help get the Bishop’s blessing on it. What a fantastic idea!

This chapel reminded me of one I have seen during my visits to Slovakia. It’s in the wine region of Western Slovakia, just outside the small village of Štefanová (Shtef-uh-no-vah). Alas, I could not track down any photos I had taken, but here’s one I found on Wikipedia:

It’s of a similar size — maybe slightly larger — and was dedicated in honor of St. Rosalia on September 6, 1885 with over 4,000 people (!) overflowing out onto the surrounding field. On my visits to that area of Slovakia, sometimes there have been good-size crowds of people (spilling out) for a Mass celebrated there. It’s a lovely stop “along the way” for prayer and devotion.

Again, how wonderful it would be to see this sort of thing become common again. Wayside shrines of course take many forms — from a statue or crucifix erected beside a field, pleading God’s blessing on the crops there and reminding passers-by of him and his saints, to these small sorts of chapels built for the devotion of the workers or of others who come through the area. They are visible reminders of the presence of God and a consolation in the midst of this world, which otherwise, so often, is a “valley of tears”.

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