Text and photographs by John P. Walsh
One hour’s drive (about 40 miles) south of downtown Chicago– and 90 minutes drive from the University of Notre Dame near South Bend, Indiana, is The Shrine of Christ’s Passion. Within a 30-acre site whose landscaped rocks, hills, and trees envelop the visitor, the shrine is located on busy U.S. 41 at 10630 Wicker Avenue in St. John, Indiana. A pioneer town settled in 1837, St. John still sits among farm fields though there is increasingly more development only minutes from the Indiana-Illinois state line.
On the historic Wachter family farm, the level terrain is a perfect outdoor setting for an array of multi-media and interactive attractions. Most visitors, whether as individuals or in groups, come to the shrine to traverse the half-mile winding concrete pathway that contain over 40 life-sized bronze sculptures which dramatize the Passion of Jesus Christ in the Bible.
The visit to the shrine begins in the well-stocked gift shop and leads directly outdoors to the dramatization of Jesus at The Last Supper and into the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prays. This is followed by the 14 traditional Stations of the Cross. The visit ends at Jesus’s empty tomb and his appearance to Mary Magdalene. Finally there is the dramatic Ascension of the Risen Jesus into Heaven on Mount Olivet.
The shrine opened in 2011 and added its latest attractions in 2017. This is a re-creation of the rock-filled path up Mount Sinai to where Moses has received the 10 Commandments.
The Shrine of Christ’s Passion required a decade of planning and over $10 million dollars to build. Each setting or station for Christ’s passion has an orientation kiosk. Each features the well-known recorded voice of American television journalist Bill Kurtis. A push of a button has Mr. Kurtis’s voice over the kiosks’ speakers provide a clear and brief description in English of the sculptures’ scenes followed by a short meditation.
Along the broad concrete pathway the prayer trail is meditative and its easy progression from station to station lends itself to discovery. Formed hills, planted trees, bushes, and grasses as well as many large boulders, provide a complete landscape far from the outside world. The design creates a terrain that is self-contained and works to evoke the arid climate of the Holy Land where the last days of Christ can become vibrant today.
Upon exiting the gift shop with its walls and shelves of tempting religious articles and other items for purchase — all proceeds apparently go to the upkeep of the shrine– one steps into an outdoor pastoral setting which offers the immediate transition into the world of the Bible and following in the footsteps of Christ during his darkest moments. Visitors share the trail with others from around the nation and world. This is part of what makes each visit to the shrine unique and alive. Yet there is ample space and freedom to enjoy one’s own completely personal experience.
Whenever one may visit the shrine — it is open 361 days a year– the prayer trail has an atmosphere that is quiet and respectful. There is always a place to sit and drink in the sculpture art detailing the greatest story ever told. Among its flora, evocative rock and land formations, and realistically-rendered life-sized sculptures depicting Jesus Christ’s suffering –- one witnesses in a a new way Christ’s mission which triumphed over sin and death.
A large and impressive place, The Shrine of Christ’s Passion retains a human scale along with giving the visitor a sense of being serenely out in nature. Depending on how much time a visitor can spend, a visit to the shrine could possibly be accomplished in as little as 30 minutes though at least an hour should be allowed to see and savor everything it has to offer.
In addition to the main prayer trail and gift shop, the shrine includes more attractions such as the Moses, Mount Sinai, and the 10 Commandments trail; The Sanctity of Life Shrine; and Our Lady of The New Millennium, a monumental three-story (34 feet) tall statue of the Virgin Mary constructed out of over 8,000 pounds of stainless steel.
The Shrine is operated by a non-denominational nonprofit, private foundation. Admission to all attractions at the shrine is free. The Shrine is open daily from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Thursdays until 8:00 p.m. The Prayer Trail is open year round, weather permitting.
The Shrine of Christ’s Passion Official website – http://shrineofchristspassion.org/
Our Lady of the New Millennium – https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2011-03-04-ct-talk-mary-statue-0305-20110304-story.html
Main Entrance on U.S. 41 at 10630 Wicker Avenue in St. John, Indiana, minutes from the Illinois-Indiana state line. Just 40 minutes from downtown Chicago, there is ample free parking and tour buses are welcome.
The Gift Shoppe.
The Last Supper Luke 22:19
“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
Garden of Gethsemane Mark 14:34
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” Jesus said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
THE 14 STATIONS OF THE CROSS AT THE SHRINE OF CHRIST’S PASSION, ST. JOHN, INDIANA.
1. Jesus is condemned to death Matthew 27: 19-26
“Pilate had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.”
2. Jesus carries His cross John 19:16-17
“Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).”
3. Jesus falls for the first time Isaiah 53:1-3
“He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”
4. Jesus meets His mother, Mary Lamentations 1:12
“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look around and see.
Is any suffering like my suffering
that was inflicted on me..?”
5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross Luke 23:26
“They seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.”
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus Psalm 17:15
“As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face;
when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.”
7. Jesus falls for the second time Isaiah 53:4-6
“Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.”
8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem Luke 23:27-31
“A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.”
9. Jesus falls for the third time Isaiah 53:10-11
“Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand….”
10. Jesus is stripped of His clothes Matthew 27:27-31
“They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him.”
11. Jesus is nailed to the cross Luke 23:33-34
“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.”
12. Jesus dies on the cross Luke 23:44-49
“Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.”
13. Jesus is taken down from the cross Mark 15:39
“When the centurion who stood facing him saw how Jesus breathed his last he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!'”
14. Jesus is placed in the tomb Luke 23:50-53
“Going to Pilate, Joseph of Arimathea asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.”
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene John 20:16
“Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”
Images from the Prayer Trail
The Ascension Acts of the Apostles 1:9
“…Jesus was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”
Introduction and all Photographs ©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.