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Indian River, Michigan: The National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods

 

About the Shrine of the Cross in the Woods:

The history of the Shrine dates back to 1946, at a time when there were only about 12 Catholic families in Indian River. There were, however, a large number of people who visited this beautiful area in the summer and of course many of them were Catholics. The Bishop at that time approached a local business man, J.J. Harrington, to help secure land for a parish to be built in this area. With his help they petitioned they petitioned the Michigan State Department of Conservation to sell them a plot of land in the area, but were denied.

Despite this, a new parish was established and Fr. Charles D. Brophy was named as Parish administrator. Fr. Brophy wanted to name the church after Kateri Tekawitha. He was impressed by the fact that she used to build tiny crosses and place them in trees in the woods, but could not name the church after her since she had not yet been declared a saint.

There was no Church built yet, so Masses were held at the Township Hall. Then in, 1947, J.J. Harrington went to Buffalo, New York to attend a family wedding. While he was there, he went to an outdoor mass for shut-ins. He found that people were able to attend Mass in a car and be near an outdoor altar. Upon returning to Indian River, he told Father Brophy about the outdoor church. Both men dreamed of an indoor church for permanent residents……and an outdoor church that would attract visitors during the summer months.

The chapel at the Cross in the Woods in Indian River, Michigan
The chapel at the Cross in the Woods

Once again. they attempted to convince state authorities to sell them the unused land, pointing out that it would be good for Michigan tourism. The State commission was persuaded to sell the land for the sum of one dollar plus a box of candy for the commission secretary.

Since the Cross was located outside, it was only possible to pray there during good weather. A chapel was built that held 250 people, but was eventually outgrown as the Parish exceeded 500 families.

The outdoor Crucifix at the Shrine of the Cross in the Woods in Indian River, Michigan
The outdoor Crucifix at the Shrine of the Cross in the Woods

In June 1997 a new church that holds over 1,000 with a view of the Cross in the background was dedicated. The Shrine is staffed by the Franciscan Friars of the Sacred Heart (St. Louis, Mo. province) and is an active Parish.

Daily masses are at 8:30 a.m. and noon; Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sunday Masses are 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

It also has a gift shop and doll museum on site. Saint Kateri is featured prominently.

Traveling to the National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods:

Address: 7078 M-68, Indian River, MI 49749

GPS coordinates: 45° 23′ 53.3292” N, 84° 37′ 55.4592” W

Tel:    + 231-238-7012

e-mail: [email protected]

Click here for the official website of the National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods in Indian River, Michigan

Click here to find motels in Indian River, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor

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