The newly completed Shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Help will be dedicated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane at 11:30 a.m., June 6, 2021 at the Retreat Center, 3989 S. Moon Drive, Venice.
The dedication will be followed by a barbecue lunch. All are invited to attend this special event in the life of the Diocese of Venice. However, space is limited and RSVP for the dedication is required via the website at https://olph-retreat.org/shrine-dedication-bbq or by calling 941-486-0233. There is no cost to attend, however donations are appreciated.
The Shrine memorializes Redemptorist Father Charlie Mallen, the founding director of the Retreat Center, known by most as OLPH, and is next to the Bell Tower, along a path which leads in one direction to nearby St. Joseph Chapel and in the other direction to the outdoor Stations of the Cross.
Father Mark Yavarone, OVM, Retreat Center Director of Spirituality, explained that the lake at the center of our property is called the Lake of the Blessed Sacrament, chosen by Father Mallen because he knew that the Eucharist was the center of the activity of the Church and the Retreat Center.
“The Blessed Sacrament, reserved in two places at our center, continues to be our retreatants’ favorite prayer setting,” Father Yavarone said. “It is fitting to have the beautiful Shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Help close to the chapel and facing the Lake of the Blessed Sacrament. This location speaks of the closeness of Mary to Jesus in the Eucharist. At the back of the statue of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the crucifix and the plaque memorializing Father Charlie complete the shrine beautifully.
Sometimes we need to go to Mary in a very tangible way, and the new outdoor shrine affords this opportunity. Also, many of our retreatants have a strong sense that God speaks through nature, and they like to pray outdoors, particularly during good weather. We see many retreatants stopping at the shrine and briefly visiting Mary; many also pray there for longer periods of time.”
The main feature of the Shrine, the monument, is made of 15,000 pounds of Oolitic limestone. In a niche is a one-ton marble statue of Our Lady of Perpetual Help as the centerpiece with a small waterfall at Mary’s feet which is lit at night to striking effect. The reverse side of the limestone has a crucifix. Several Italian cypress trees produce a vaulted cathedral effect. Limestone was used to create a series of benches, each weighing two-tons. The stairs and floor of the Shrine are made of keystone, and the ramp access is made of travertine.
OLPH sits along the Myakka River and is the main retreat center for the Diocese of Venice. The groundbreaking took place in 1995, with the first buildings opening later in the year. The site includes a conference center, villas for overnight guests, a dining center and chapel. In addition to the seven buildings on-site, retreatants have the opportunity to spend time enjoying the beautiful grounds which include the Way of the Cross, the Rosary Walk and the prayer decks located along the riverbank.
OLPH offers a variety of opportunities for people seeking solace and prayer. The public is welcome to visit the grounds during the week and there are Monthly Days of Prayer. The center also offers group retreats of a few days duration that are open to the public. There are also one-on-one retreats that last one, three, five, eight, or 30 days. These include lots of time for prayer and reflection, daily meetings with a priest, and availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Mass is also celebrated daily with all of these retreats, usually at 11:15 a.m. The schedule for retreats can be found by visiting www.olph-retreat.org, and clicking on “Schedule of Events.”