VENICE | A centerpiece feature of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice was dedicated and blessed by Bishop Frank J. Dewane before an enthusiastic crowd of about 175 on June 6, 2021.
The Shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Help is a fitting memorial to the Blessed Virgin who serves as the exemplar for all to follow.
“The Church recognizes in Mary, as the model, the path and the practice It must follow to reach complete in union with Christ,” Bishop Dewane said. “As Christ’s mother and first disciple, the Church raises its eyes to Mary. It is to her we must look to in carrying out the work of this apostolate – retreats. We should strive to take part in this service today with the greatest intensity and reverent devotion. Keeping in mind all those who will pass through these grounds with the petitions of our Blessed Mother may reach out to the individuals and give them the healing that they seek.”
The dedication opened with the singing of “Immaculate Mary” and was followed by two Gospel readings, read by Father Mark Yavarone, OMV, Director of Spirituality, and Father Lino Estadilla, OMV, Assistant Director of Spirituality, respectively. Following the intercessions, Bishop Dewane gave the Prayer of Blessing.
Bishop Dewane then blessed the Shrine with holy water and was joined by Father Yavarrone, Father Estadilla, and Carmelite Father J.J. McCarthy, past Director of the Retreat Center. Following the concluding rite, everyone joined in singing “Hail, Holy Queen.” A barbecue luncheon followed in the main dining hall and conference center.
Following the dedication, many took time to closely explore the Shrine and its unique features. The main feature, 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 (who is holding the Child Jesus) 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.
A votive stand sits at the bottom of the steps of the Shrine, allowing the faithful to light candles in prayer which many opted to light immediately following the ceremony.
“The retreat center has meant a lot to my family through the years,” said Carmen Sosa who lit a candle to her late husband. “This Shrine to Our Lady is so beautiful and is a peaceful place to reflect and be filled with the love of Mary and Our Lord.”
The center 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 by 1996. 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.
The retreat center 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 these retreats, usually at 11:15 a.m.
For more information about Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center and to learn more about the schedule for retreats, visit www.olph-retreat.org.