By Bryan Boyle, Special to The Anchor
FALL RIVER — St. Anne’s Shrine, under the care of the all-volunteer, laity-led St. Anne’s Shrine Preservation Society, is in the midst of a 10-year effort to renovate, restore, and return St. Anne’s to active participation in the life of the Diocese of Fall River and surrounding areas. As the largest votive candle shrine in Southern New England, the Shrine draws visitors and pilgrims from not only the surrounding area, but active donations, visits, and inquiries from across the United States.
The Shrine was founded by the French Dominicans priests who fled France during the late 1800s and was under the care of the Canadian Dominicans until the church and Shrine were turned over to the diocese in 1978. After the closure of the parish in 2018, the Preservation Society was founded to reopen and manage saving this registered National Historic Landmark and preserve it for future generations.
During this 125th anniversary of the Shrine’s dedication, several notable honors, events, and activities have taken place or are planned at St. Anne’s Shrine:
• On Dec. 25, 2020, His Holiness Pope Francis bestowed an Apostolic Blessing on St. Anne’s Shrine, its chaplain, the staff, and all who work to preserve this Sacred space. The stemma granting this special blessing can be seen displayed in the Shrine.
• As an indication of special favor, a Plenary Indulgence was granted by the Apostolic Penitentiary to pilgrims and visitors to the Shrine, under the usual conditions of sorrow for sin and Sacramental Confession, reception of the Eucharist, and prayers for the pope’s intentions, for any visit during the month of July, or participation in the Novena to St. Anne (July 17-25), as well as granted for the Festival Mass on the feast of St. Anne, July 26, celebrated by Bishop Edgar da Cunha S.D.V., D.D.
• The Preservation Society’s Liturgical directors have re-instituted the weekly St. Anne Novena on Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m., and during the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent have included the recitation of evening Vespers from the Daily Office after the Novena.
• Every Friday at 2 p.m., the Divine Mercy Chaplet and Rosary are prayed in the restored St. Jude’s Chapel in the Shrine.
• Through the generous permission of the bishop, Mass is celebrated on the First Friday devoted to the Sacred Heart by priests of the diocese, and on the third Thursday of the month, the chaplain, Father Edward Murphy of the Taunton Catholic South parishes, celebrates a Healing Mass for the sick and infirm of the area.
• A blue-ribbon committee has been formed to begin the formal phase of a capital campaign to fund the repair of the roof, stabilization of falling plaster, and other repairs to permit the opening of the upper church, closed since 2015. Plans are being finalized to launch a nation-wide effort to seek donations and donors willing to contribute to this restoration.
• Expanding on the sale of live (not electric) votive candles, the Immaculate Conception Gift Shop, featuring Catholic religious goods, Purgatorial and Prayer Guild enrollment, and statuary, Rosaries, devotional articles, and seasonal items was expanded in January, and is the only Catholic religious store in the area. The shop is located in the lower entrance on the north side of the narthex to the shrine.
• The Shrine Board of Directors has appointed Dianne Scott, JD, as the official archivist and Curator of the Shrine to assemble and preserve the documents, records, and historical data generated over the past 125-plus years of St. Anne’s presence in Fall River, and ensure these records are preserved, digitized, and cataloged for future generations and academic research.
The Preservation Society has not been standing still, and future repairs to the infrastructure, furnishing, and historical items are actively underway, and tours are available during regular opening hours.
St. Anne’s Shrine is open to visitors under temporary restrictions due to the current health issue, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from 12 noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
For more information, please contact the Shrine here.
Website: https://www. st-annes-shrine.org Phone: 508-678-1510
Or: Bryan Boyle, co-director of Liturgy and Devotions, St. Anne Shrine of Fall River, 818 Middle Street, Fall River, Mass., 02721.
Shrine office: 508-678-1510.