A Marian shrine for persecuted Christians to open in Massachusetts

icon persecuted Deacon Ebrahim Lallo, a Syriac Catholic Deacon from the town of Bartella, Iraq, painted the icon “Mary, Mother of Persecuted Christians,” which will be in the shrine in Clinton, Massachusetts. | Photo credit: Father Benedict Kiely

More people need to pray for the millions of Christians who are being persecuted because of their faith.

That’s the idea behind the new Shrine of Mary, Mother of Persecuted Christians opening in Clinton, Massachusetts, on Friday.

The shrine, which will be the third of its kind in the world, is the brainchild of Father Benedict Kiely, who in 2016 founded Nasarean.org, a nonprofit organization and ministry that advocates for persecuted Christians with a focus on the Middle East.

The installation at St. John the Guardian of Our Lady Parish in the Diocese of Worcester will be followed by the world premiere of the “Mass for Persecuted Christians,” a sung Mass setting written by Catholic composer Paul Jernberg. 

Kiely, an English Catholic priest in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, said that the Mass is “singable” for most “fairly good” choirs.  

The English priest, who has spent years ministering to persecuted Christians in the Middle East, said that Scripture says to pray for one another. 

“So we need to actually believe that prayer is powerful and that it can help,” he said. Kiely said that when speaking to persecuted Christians in places like Syria, Lebanon, Nigeria, and Iraq, the first thing they ask him is for prayers.

He added: “So if they are asking for it, how can we not do it?”

Kiely said that it is insufficient to only pray for persecuted Christians at Mass. 

“We’ve got to have a place,” he said. “We need to be praying constantly for our persecuted brethren, and we’ve established a place where we can do that.”

The shrine will be blessed on Friday by Worcester Bishop Robert McManus and will include an icon of the Blessed Mother that will remind Catholics to pray for persecuted Christians across the globe. The icon was painted by Deacon Ebrahim Lallo, a Syriac Catholic deacon from the town of Bartella, Iraq.

In 2014, Lallo was driven out of his town by ISIS but has since returned. Lallo painted the icon at Kiely’s request. The two have formed a friendship from Kiely’s many visits to the war-torn country. 

The first shrine of Mary under the same title opened at the Church of St. Michael on West 34th Street in New York City in 2017. Last month Nasarean.org opened the second at the Ordinariate Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory in the district of Soho of London, England. The installation of the shrine at the Massachusetts church will be celebrated with the new fully sung Mass setting, which will feature the composer’s “Chor Unum” choir. 

The music for the Mass has been released online and can be listened to here.

Kiely told CNA Wednesday that any parish that wishes to celebrate a Mass for persecuted Christians is invited to use the sung Mass.

Kiely said he is grateful to Bishop McManus for allowing the shrine to be installed because it shows he feels praying for persecuted Christians is important. 

“So I think any bishop who does this is, as it were, identifying with the persecuted Church very powerfully,” he added. 

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Kiely said he encourages any bishops interested in installing a shrine within their dioceses to reach out to his organization. He added that the icon of Mary would be provided at no cost. 

“It’s going to be really beautiful,” Kiely said of the installation.

Read more about Kiely’s ministry here

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