Catholic order sells New Hampshire shrine to Shaker museum

la salette shrine Statues depicting the apparition of Our Lady of La Salette at the La Salette Shrine in Enfield, New Hampshire. | YouTube/ CatholicNH July 23, 2021

The Catholic La Salette Missionaries are selling one of their Marian shrines in Enfield, New Hampshire, to a museum devoted to the preservation of the history of the Protestant sect known as the Shakers.

Once known as “The Shaking Quakers” for the ecstatic trembling that accompanied their worship, the utopian religious group split from mainstream Quakerism in the 18th century, peaking in popularity in America in the mid-1800s. The practitioners of nonviolence, celibacy, and furniture-making only has two members left in existence (in Maine), Deseret News reported in 2022.

According to the Enfield Shaker Museum, which is buying the shrine to Our Lady of La Salette, the Missionaries of La Salette bought the land from the Shakers in 1927. Before that, the land was used for potential Shaker converts who lived in the community for a one-year trial period. 

The La Salette Missionaries, who spread the message given by the Virgin Mary to two shepherd children in the French Alps during the 1800s, were founded to heal spiritual wounds through a call to repentance and the administering of the sacraments.

CNA contacted both the La Salette Missionaries and the museum for comment, but no one was available.

Veronica Colby, who runs a prayer group at the shrine and lives in nearby Lebanon, told CNA Friday that she is frustrated by the sale and will have to find a new church to receive the sacraments for Sunday Mass. 

Colby, who has been visiting the shrine for 12 years, said that the priests at the shrine told her that the congregation wouldn’t have the ability to staff it much longer because of a shortage of priests and vocations.

The first Mass was celebrated on the property on Christmas Eve in 1927. The last Mass will be celebrated on Sept. 19, the museum said in a statement. 

Carolyn Smith, director of the museum, told the Union Leader that the “overall appearance of the property is not going to change dramatically.” 

She also said that lay members of La Salette may continue holding activities on the property, such as the Festival of Lights, a monthslong Christmas light display on the property open to the public.

Father William Kaliyadan, MS, the missionaries’ provincial superior, told the Union Leader that the purchase price will be disclosed shortly before October. 

He told the outlet that “I’m excited because this is going to keep the spirit of bringing all people — both Christian and non-Christian — to the grounds and keeping the Shaker heritage alive at the same time.” 

“It’s a beautiful conciliation between the Shakers and the La Salettes who share a long history,” he added.

There were multiple bids from other buyers to purchase the approximate $3.2 million property, according to the outlet.

On the shrine’s website, there is an explanation of the apparitions at La Salette, France. 

While the Virgin Mary was weeping, she said to the shepherd children: “If my people do not obey, I shall be compelled to let go my Son’s arm. It is so heavy, I can no longer hold it. How long have I suffered for you! If my Son is not to abandon you, I am obliged to entreat him without ceasing. But you take no heed of that. No matter how well you pray in the future, no matter how well you act, you will never be able to make up to me what I have endured on your behalf. I have given you six days to work. The seventh I have reserved for myself, yet no one will give it to me. This is what causes the weight of my Son’s arm to be so heavy. The cart drivers cannot swear without bringing in my Son’s name.”

The rest of the apparition can be read about on the shrine’s website here.

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