Pilgrims Gather at the Campus Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham


On a recent cloudy autumn Sunday, a small group of pilgrims made the trek from Western Pennsylvania to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham on campus. The pilgrims, along with a group of seminarians and Seminary President, the Very Rev. Dr Chad Hatfield gathered at the shrine located behind Erickson House after Coffee Hour to pray the Akathist Hymn to the Walsingham Icon of the Theotokos. Fr Chad sat down with us to talk about the history and significance of our campus Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Photo 1 Our Lady W

In 2009, the Brotherhood of St Lawrence, a Western Rite group based in Colorado, raised funds and made a donation so we could refurbish what was originally a Lourdes shrine when we bought this property (a former Catholic convent). We decided to transform the long-neglected shrine into one that has a particular Orthodox devotion, and we decided on the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham since the people raising the funds were Western Rite.

They have a special devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham, but also, one of our SVS press authors, Fr Christopher Knight is the current Orthodox priest in the village of Walsingham (if you haven't seen his book on science and religion, you should, it's very popular).

The history of the shrine is quite fascinating, particularly after its destruction by Henry VIII, the finding of the well that had been destroyed by the 1920s, and the Orthodox connection to the rebuilding of the shrine. Today, the “Holy House” has an Orthodox chapel, adjoined to the Anglican and Roman Catholic chapels. Another interesting part of this shrine is the so-called Slipper Chapel, which is one mile away from the main shrine. It got its name from the local practice where people would take off their shoes and walk the last mile to the Holy House barefoot.

Photo 2 Our Lady W

The icon in our particular shrine was painted by Khouria Erin Mary Kimmett with Annunciation Press. Our shrine was actually registered amongst the many global shrines of Our Lady of Walsingham. The pilgrims from Pittsburgh, of course, discovered that and wanted to come and pray in the shrine. So the shrine gets used for different things. During the right seasons, the Paraklesis is prayed in there and other such things. Rather than sitting empty, in disrepair, our Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham is well-kept and used for prayer, and how grateful we are to the Brotherhood of St Lawrence who restored it.