What Is a Shrine?

A shrine is a center of spiritual refreshment, a place of prayer, reflection and devotion.  It is an axis mundi, a ‘center of the world’, a place where, for generations, people have encountered God.

It is a place to know yourself within the heart of God, and to discover yourself within a community of fellow believers.  It is a place to visit, an inspiration for living a holy life.  Most of all, a Shrine is a gathering of God’s people.

The document The Shrine from the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, states that shrines have enormous symbolic value.  They are a sign of the active, saving presence of God throughout history and in our present time.  Shrines are at once a place of memory, presence and prophecy.


As a place of memory, The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii is a reminder of God’s powerful actions in history and in the lives of Italian immigrants to the Chicago area.  It is where, for nearly 100 years, thousands have continually given thanks to God as they draw together in community and commitment to each other.  Today the Shrine fosters weekly devotions to the Holy Rosary and to extraordinary people of faith in our recent past such as Padre Pio.

The first canonized American saint, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (Mother Cabrini) herself prayed at Our Lady of Pompeii and built Cabrini Hospital (now a condominium complex) across the street from the church in the early 20th century.

“… for me [the Shrine] has a special meaning of tradition for our family. It’s like I’m carrying on our family’s tradition and I hope my children will do the same.” – Joe Mazza


As a place of presence, The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii is a special place for the celebration of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith.  The Shrine’s beautiful and inspiring liturgical celebrations are a sign of God’s loving presence embracing us all.  These Sunday, feast day and seasonal liturgies are a cornerstone of our ministry that contribute to the quality of our spiritual lives.

“I am drawn to the Shrine because of the deep spiritual feeling I experience when attending Mass. I hope that the future brings the possibility of people  from all over the country and the world to also have the privilege of experiencing the same.  The Mass…the music, the “true gem” of the Shrine itself all make a perfect religious experience.” — Nella Ferarra


As a place of prophecy, The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii is a sign of hope, a place where one experiences constant conversion of heart.  It is a symbol of a new heaven and a new earth where we all live in the joy of God’s love, mercy and compassion.  The Shrine is a place of education in the ethical values of compassion, peace, care for creation, justice and solidarity with the poor.  It is a place deeply rooted in the Italian cultural tradition, open to the needs of today and hopes for tomorrow.

“The Shrine’s mission as a place to pray for peace is why I keep coming back. The activities and messages that come from the Shrine have universal application and touch the lives for the better of all who come in contact with the Shrine including myself.” –  Alexis Sarkasian

A shrine differs in mission from a local Catholic parish church.  We do not have regular ‘parishioners’ in a local geographic area, nor do we offer education to receive Catholic sacraments.  We are, in essence, a destination church, a place where people come for spiritual refreshment, renewal and prayer.  All who come to the Shrine are called pilgrims for they have made a special effort to travel beyond their parish locale to this holy place of worship.

Our purpose is to serve the entire Archdiocese of Chicago and all who travel to us from beyond its borders.  Our ‘pilgrimages’ are programs that most often take place at the Shrine to empower people on their interior sacred journey of the soul.

In welcoming all to deepen their commitment to God and devotion to Our Lady, The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii offers healing and promise, now and for generations to come.