From the gate looking out: what I’ve learned from my time at Martyrs’ Shrine

I’d like to start with a surprising (or perhaps not surprising) fact, the Church here at the Martyrs’ Shrine isn’t a parish church. While it’s true that we don’t hold funerals or weddings or operate day- to-day the way a parish church does. I however, propose that we are a Community church. If we expand what we define as “community” we have the opportunity to see two different perspectives. One is the massive scale. The large numbers of pilgrims that come thought our gates every year and the many more family and friends that are prayed for here every day. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the Martyrs’ Shrine Association which is a thriving part of our community.

The other is the small community comprised of the staff that run Martys’ Shrine. Looking at the Shrine and its grounds how many people do you think it takes to have us operate? – Given that on our busiest days we have between 6,000 and 10,000 pilgrims. Now that you have a guess the correct number is 25, that includes the 6 Fathers that we have serving here. So as you can imagine we are a fairly tight group, and I can certainly say this is true for at least the department I’m part of (there is 7 of us).

On a personal level, I have been greatly impacted by this sense of community. You see, I’m a transplant from Toronto, and moving so far from my friends and family left me with a sense of something missing. But since my involvement with the Shrine, I’ve made new friends and found the sort of belonging I had been lacking. Everyone both staff and pilgrims are very welcoming which has made adjusting to living here much easier. I’ve been part of many teams in my life and I’m very impressed with the one we have here.

A lot of work goes into building community like that, it started all the way back at our orientation we had a tour of St Marie among the Hurons. From there, we were led as a group of pilgrims up to the church where they welcomed us with the tolling of the bells. Later that day we did an activity where we had to prioritize what tasks need to happen first or are most important. What it was meant to teach us is that no independent person or department is more important than the others, and we are all important members of the team. It also had the added benefit of having the various departments learn what each other does. It’s reassuring to know help is only a radio call away. It certainly helped to create a real sense of community.

Rachael Schneller,
Pilgrim Services Team.

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