National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes
Capuchin Friars Minor



Facade of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes

One cannot mention the devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes in the Philippines without citing the people behind the devotion. It was a layman Don Regino Garcia who ordered the Filipino sculptor Manuel Flores to make a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, which was placed at the side altar of the church of the Capuchins in 1892.

People were immediately and strongly attracted to Our Lady of Lourdes that on February 1893 the first novena was held in her honor in order to organize in some way the growing devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes the Capuchin chapel was built in Intramuros. The decree of Erection was granted on September 15, 1893. On February 11, 1896 the confraternity was affiliated to the Archconfraternity of Lourdes, France.

In the meantime, the outbreak of the Spanish-American war on May 1, 1898 produced an unexpected effect. In view of the imminent danger to Intramuros, the superior of the Capuchins, Fr. Alonso Morentin, in the name of the Capuchins, solemnly promised Our Lady of Lourdes to dedicate their new church to her in Intramuros if the walled city was spared any damage from the shelling of the Americans. That was exactly what happened! And so on September 24, 1989 the new church was solemnly inaugurated and dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes.

The devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes slowly but surely spread throughout the Philippines that the Capuchins were forced to build a bigger and more beautiful church which was dedicated on February 3, 1910.

Interior of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes

In the meantime many parishes requested to be affiliated to the confraternity. So Fr. Alfonso Morentin requested Pope Pius X to raise the Manila Confraternity to the rank of Archconfraternity. Pope Pius X granted the Papal Brief on August 26, 1910.

The imposing church structure at the corner of Retiro and Kanlaon streets in Sta. Mesa Heights, Quezon City traces its beginning in 1941 when the first construction of the church and convent was planned in a lot acquired through the donations made by the families represented by Don Salvador Araneta and Doña Natividad Zaragoza Tuason.

On August 14, 1941, Fr. Florencio de Lezaun, superior of the Capuchins in the Philippines addressed a letter to the then Archbishop of Manila, Msgr. Michael O'Doherty, asking his consent to build a religious house with a church attached to it, in a 10,500 square meter lot acquired by the Order in Retiro Street.

On March 28, 1942 Archbishop O'Doherty of Manila issued a decree on the establishment of the pleno iure, a church and the religious house of the Capuchins. But because of World War II, the construction of the church and religious house was delayed for several years.

Image of Our Lady of Lourdes

The faithful saved the image of Our Lady of Lourdes during the war before the destruction of the Lourdes Church and other churches in Intramuros, by bringing it to San Agustin Church also in Intramuros for safekeeping.

In the first days of March 1945 when peace was restored in that embattled part of Manila, church representatives visited San Agustin Church and the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes was recovered intact from the sacristy. It was brought to the chapel of the University of Sto. Tomas.

On December 3, 1949, Msgr. Gabriel M. Reyes, then Archbishop of Manila wrote to the Superior of the Capuchins, Fr. Bienvenido de Arbieza, informing him that the construction of the religious house in Retiro street, Q.C. to whose church is joined the aforementioned parish, according to the provisions of the decrees be started without further delay.

The blessing of the first stone of the projected parish church was held on January 29, 1950. Bishop Miguel Olano, OFMCap, officiated in the ceremonies.

February 10, 1951, birthday of Lourdes church saw the image of Our Lady of Lourdes brought in great solemnity and fervor from its temporary place on Mayon Street to her new sanctuary on Retiro Street corner Kanlaon in Sta. Mesa Heights.

Since its foundation in Intramuros the church of the Capuchins was recognized as the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes. The Capuchins brought the devotion to Our Lady in the Philippines. After the war the church at Retiro Street continued to be the Lady's Shrine.

Since its establishment in the early 1940s and most especially when the new church was inaugurated at Retiro Street, the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes witnessed the various experiences that gradually developed the people's concern for the parish. It welcomed reforms initiated by Vatican II so much so that liturgical rites and other parish activities were given new dimensions.

In the First Provincial Chapter of Capuchins in 1985 the friars decided to revive the devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes. And during the Centennial Celebrations of the Capuchins' presence in the Philippines (1886-1986), the Provincial Minister, Fr. Troy delos Santos, requested Cardinal Sin to declare the Our Lady of Lourdes Church as Archdiocesan Shrine, which His Eminence granted with a decree dated February 3, 1987.

But on the occasion of the 45th Foundation anniversary of Lourdes Church in 1996, the Capuchins, together with the many devotees, requested the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines to declare Lourdes church as National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The CBCP granted the request the following year at their 74th General Assembly at the Betania Retreat House in Tagaytay City. With a letter dated January 30, 1997 the Lourdes church was declared as the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Excerpt from Shrines, Incarnating Christ Today. St. Paul Philippines, 2004. Photos from forums.catholic.com, arlene1956.wordpress.com and fbcdn.net.

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