SAINT ANNE'S SHRINE
A Spiritual Sanctuary in the Lake Champlain Islands
Story and photos by Dan
Saint Anne's Shrine combines historical and spiritual significance in one small property. Accessible by boat or car, this peaceful religious facility on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain makes a pleasant day trip from any location in the North Country.
Arriving by car, visitors immediately notice a tidy white chapel where the religious services are conducted. The chapel is open to the lake, with wide steps leading up to the altar. Numerous pews for worshippers sit under a roofed open-air pavilion. The grounds are sprinkled with several grottos and statues dedicated to religious figures, with lit candles marking the visits of petitioners.
There is a beach and wooded picnic area along
the lake. A large building behind the chapel houses a cafeteria and
small chapel for services during inclement weather. The combination
of lake, trees, open grounds and tidy structures allows visitors to
immediately relax. A sense of peace and serenity seeps from the surroundings
to remove troubling thoughts from your mind.
Saint Anne's Shrine
Bishop Louis de Goesbriand, the first Bishop of Burlington, originally acquired the property from local resident H. H. Hill in 1892. As leader of the local parish, the Reverend Joseph Kerlidou directed the efforts of local Catholics in clearing the land and building the new chapel.
Bishop de Goesbriand blessed the
site during the Feast of St. Anne on July 26, 1893. St. Anne's Shrine
was entrusted to its current caretakers, the Edmundite Order (link to
sidebar), in 1904. They have made many improvements to the grounds during
their stewardship, including overseeing construction of the present
(much larger) chapel and the large cafeteria building. They also were
involved in acquiring the statues of Samuel de Champlain and Our Lady
of Lourdes that now grace the property.
The Society of Saint Edmund developed in the
middle 18th Century in response to the continued splintering of the
Catholic Church. Initially roving missionaries, they organized as the
Society of the Fathers and the Brothers of Saint Edmund, Oblates of
the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1852.
While the order helped rekindle religious fervor
in the rural areas of France, they had their greatest success as educators.
They were instrumental in forming the Catholic universities at Mont
Saint-Michel, the College de l'Immaculee Conception in Laval, the College
Saint-Michel in Chateau-Gontier and the Ecole Saint-Edme in Sens.
Witnessing the rising struggle between Church
and State in France at the end of the 19th Century, the society decided
to expand to North America, initially in Quebec. They were advised to
seek out Burlington's Bishop de Goesbriand, who was looking for French-speaking
clergy for northern Vermont. The society established roots in Keeler's
Bay and Swanton, Vermont.
The Edmundites helped found Winooski's Saint
Michael's College in 1904. St. Michael's was granted the authority to
award college degrees in 1913, becoming the first Catholic College in
Vermont awarded this power.
The Edmundites have since expanded into the southern
United States, using the society's aim to provide education for the
poor and minorities to bring new members to the Church.
The lakeshore in front of the chapel is marked
as the location of a landing by Samuel de Champlain in 1609. He was
the first European to visit the lake and islands that bear his name.
A seventeen-ton statue of the explorer identifies the spot. It was sculpted
by F. L. Weber in the Vermont pavilion at Montreal's Expo '67. The state
of Vermont donated the statue to the town of Isle La Motte at a dedication
ceremony on July 7, 1968.
Fort Saint Anne
The property also encompasses the location of Fort Saint Anne, Vermont's oldest settlement. It was the fourth in a series of forts built by the French as they moved south from their base in Montreal. Soldiers under the command of Captain Pierre de St. Paul, Sieur de La Motte, built the fort in 1666. That same year a chapel was built within the fort. It was the first chapel in Vermont, one of the first chapels in New England, and the first Church of St. Anne in the United States. The fort was abandoned and razed by the French shortly before 1690. While it was not permanent, it is recognized as Vermont's first white settlement.
Saint Anne was the mother of the Virgin Mary,
and is revered by Catholics to nearly the same degree as her daughter.
She has been the patron saint of the Province of Quebec since 1876.
Prayers to Saint Anne have been credited with many miracles, especially
at the cathedral in Sainte
Anne-de-Beaupré, Quebec, located northeast of Quebec City.
Both the cathedral and the shrine in Vermont display a small collection
of crutches and other mobility aids abandoned upon healing while praying
Lady of Lourdes
A 15-foot gold-leaf statue of Mary, Our Lady
of Lourdes, stands out among the many grottos. Previously located atop
the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Burlington since 1904, the
statue survived the fire that destroyed the cathedral in March of 1972.
The statue was in storage for 19 years before it was restored and donated
to St. Anne's Shrine by the Diocese of Burlington. There was a dedication
ceremony on September 8, 1991.