Shrine to Mary planned for site of Naplate church lost to tornado in 2017

An architect's drawing of the shrine to be built this summer at the site of the former St. Mary Church in Naplate.

NAPLATE — A shrine in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary will be built this summer on land that until a tornado hit in early 2017 was the site of a Catholic church under her patronage.

The open-air shrine will include many items salvaged from St. Mary Church after it was structurally damaged by a deadly EF-3 tornado that touched down in Naplate and continued into Ottawa late in the afternoon of Feb. 28, 2017.

Father Kipfer, trustee Bill Mucci, and Msgr. Philip Halfacre take part in groundbreaking ceremonies June 14 for the new St. Mary’s Shrine. (Provided photo/Deacon Daniel McShane)

Former St. Mary parishioners had expressed hope that something in memory of the church could be built on the site at 2005 Center St. after it was determined the brick structure — which had served the community since 1963 — and adjoining rectory had to be razed.

Funds from insurance claims on those buildings will be used to fund the shrine project, according to Father David Kipfer, pastor of the Ottawa Catholic Community parishes including St. Columba, St. Patrick, and St. Francis of Assisi — into which the Naplate faith community had been merged in 2013.

Father Kipfer announced plans for the shrine at area Masses the weekend of June 9-10 after meeting the previous week with former Naplate parishioners and receiving positive feedback. Last Thursday, Father Kipfer was joined at the site for a private groundbreaking ceremony by Msgr. Philip Halfacre, vicar of the Ottawa Vicariate, and Bill Mucci, a former trustee of St. Mary Parish and a present trustee at St. Francis of Assisi.

“Everybody was happy with the design,” said Mucci in an interview with The Catholic Post.

FIRST RESPONDERS ALSO HONORED

The plans — drawn up by the Ottawa-based architectural firm Basalay, Cary and Alstadt and approved by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC — call for an open-air stone structure with six arches. Inside will be items from the old church including its altar, stained glass images of Jesus and the Blessed Mother, Stations of the Cross, and some of the former pews.

The former St. Mary Church in Naplate after a tornado hit on Feb. 28, 2017. (File photo/Father Tony Fevlo, SMA)

“The statue of Our Lady that stood outside the church for many years will come inside and be positioned in the corner of the shrine,” said Mucci. The old church bell will be placed outside.

The shrine will be surrounded by a six-foot wrought iron fence. It will be unlocked during the day so the public can visit and lit at night. Special devotions are planned in May and October in honor of the Blessed Mother, and it is hoped construction will be completed by Sept. 8, which the church celebrates as Mary’s birthday.

The neighboring former St. Mary Parish Center, which was not as badly damaged in the tornado, was sold to the Village of Naplate for $1.

Father Kipfer said that, in addition to honoring the Blessed Mother, the new shrine will also be dedicated to first responders and invite prayers for their safety.

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