For years, the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche at Mission Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine has been a renowned landmark where pilgrims from all over the world visit to pray to the Nursing Mother. In fact, John F. Kennedy once called it as the “most sacred acre in America.”
At a Mass celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of La Leche on Friday, Oct. 11, Bishop Felipe Estévez announced that the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche has been approved by the USCCB for national shrine status.
Nearly 200 people attended the Mass during which the special announcement was made, including benefactors, members of the recently reinstated Confraternity of Our Lady of La Leche, Knights and Dames of Malta and many others who cherish this “sacred acre.”
In his homily, Bishop Estévez spoke about how Mary exemplifies what it means to have a relationship with God.
“Mary recognizes the living God who closes the door to the mighty of this world and raises up the little ones, the poor in spirit, who are blessed by God,” he said. “She praises God in his great mercy towards those who obey him and open their hearts to him.”
This “humble Virgin of Nazareth’s” greatest feature is her faith, said the bishop. She completely submits to the Lord’s will, as she states, “Let it be done according to your word.”
“When we look at the image of Our Lady of La Leche, in pure beauty, we see the whole mystery of Incarnation,” he said. “If Mary has a message for us today, I find it in the only words that appear in the Gospel of St. John, attributed to her: “Do what He tells you.”
After the Mass, Father Erlin Garcia, rector of the shrine, thanked everyone for their continued prayers for the shrine and welcomed everyone to find a home there.
“This has been a long road to travel,” he said, referring to the process of becoming a national shrine. “This special moment has come for our shrine to be a special place of prayer for the Diocese of St. Augustine.”
Bishop Estévez then announced that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had acknowledged the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche as a national shrine.
According to the USCCB, “Canon 1230 specifically states, ‘The term shrine signifies a church or other sacred place to which the faithful make pilgrimages for a particular pious reason with the approval of the local ordinary.’ The distinguishing mark of a shrine is that it is a place to which the faithful make pilgrimages.”
To learn more about the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche and its history, visit www.missionandshrine.org.