The National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians



Facade of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians

Devotion to Mary, Help of Christians saw its birth in the Philippines with the coming of Archbishop William Piani, a Salesian of Don Bosco, as Apostolic Delegate to the Philippines. Msgr. Piani was Delegate from 1922 to 1948. The Apostolic Delegation House in Manila became the first veritable sanctuary of Mary Help of Christians in the country. Msgr. Piani placed the delegation under her protection and put her image at the center of the house. It was here that he organized the first group of Archconfraternity of Mary Help of Christians to honor the Blessed Virgin and, through their assistance, to spread the devotion to her throughout the country. A characteristic expression of this devotion is the commemoration of Mary every 24th of the month. This culminates in the celebration of her feast-day on May 24.

During the time he served as delegate, Msgr. Piani has a statue of Mary Help of Christians enthroned at the Manila Cathedral. During the Japanese Occupation, this statue was brought to Our Lady of Loreto Church in Sampaloc for safekeeping. It was to stay here for many years until it was brought in 1994 to the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians in Parañaque. This is the earliest known statue of Mary Help of Christians in the country.

Image of Mary, Help of Christians

In the 1950's the Salesians officially began their apostolate in the country. When they came to begin their school in Mandaluyong, they were surprised to see a statue of Mary Help of Christians in the chapel that formerly served as seminary. She had seemingly come ahead decades before to prepare the ground for her sons' work in the Philippines among the young.

In 1965, the Salesians of Don Bosco built a church at the Don Bosco Seminary grounds in Canlubang, Calamba, Laguna, realizing the desire to have a shrine dedicated to Mary Help of Christians. Salesian missionaries Fr. Carreño, Fr. Cogliandro, Fr. Ferrari saw it rise and completed. The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Carmine Rocco and the Bishop of San Pablo, Msgr. Pedro Bantigue, solemnly dedicated it in 1969. This was the first church in the country dedicated by the Salesian Family to Mary Help of Christians.

The dream, however, of the whole Salesian Family for a fitting and bigger sanctuary in Manila to honor and thank Mary, Help of Christians continued--a shrine where she would welcome her devotees in the tradition left by Don Bosco at the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Turin, Italy--hic domus mea, inde gloria mea, this is my house, my glory shines from here.

Soon enough on May 24, 1972, the cornerstone of the Shrine was laid in the land donated by the Serrano and Dolor families at Better Living Subdivision, Parañaque, adjacent to the Provincial Office of the Salesians of Don Bosco. The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Rocco, and the provincial superior, Fr. Ferrari, in the presence of the members of the Salesian Family, their benefactors and friends, witnessed the event.

Interior of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians

Block by block, month by month the shrine rose from the ground. Mary Help of Christians would finally have a home of her own. Hic domus mea. In June 1975 His Eminence Jaime Cardinal Sin created the parish of Mary Help of Christians and designated the shrine as the parish church and the Salesian Fr. Pierangelo Quaranta as its first pastor. By July 24, 1975 the Parish of Mary Help of Christians was officially inaugurated at the Shrine. Fr. Quaranta with a host of parishioners and benefactors spearheaded the completion of the Shrine. The Church was solemnly consecrated on December 4, 1976 during the silver jubilee year celebrations of Salesian presence in the Philippines. As pastor, Fr. Quaranta zealously spread the devotion to Mary Help of Christians among the parishioners. To date, the statue of Mary Help of Christians is enthroned at prominent street corners of the parish.

In 1985, as the Filipinos celebrated Marian Year, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines declared this sanctuary of Mary as a National Shrine. On August 15, 1985, Msgr. Bruno Torpigliani, with Jaime Cardinal Sin and many bishops in attendance, presided over the official ceremony that bestowed upon the church the title of a National Shrine. Fr. Leo Drona, who would later become Bishop of San Jose, Nueva Ecija, was appointed the first Rector of the National Shrine.

In 1994, the National Shrine welcomed the earliest known statue of Mary Help of Christians in the country. It was a statue Msgr. William Piani himself brought to the Philippines. It was solemnly transferred from Our Lady of Loreto Church to the Shrine. Mary Help of Christians--finally in a sanctuary of her own.

The National Shrine also had the special privilege of being a Jubilee Church during the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000. This coincided with the silver jubilee celebration of the Shrine as a Parish.

The Shrine today stands as the monument of gratitude of the Salesian Family here in the Philippines to Mary and as the center for the whole country of devotion to her as the Help of Christians.

Excerpt from Shrines, Incarnating Christ Today. St. Paul Philippines, 2004. Photos from panoramio.com, facebook.com, and digitalphotographer.com.ph.

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