Dear Fr. Tom,
I've been attending the novena at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows for years now.
I was just wondering why Belleville, Illinois, was choen as the place for the Shrine. - Lucille M.
Great question! It's a relatively long answer, but I'll try to sum it up.
In 1941, a German priest, Fr. Paul Schulte, O.M.I., became known as "the flying priest of the
Arctic." He developed a strong personal devotion to Our Lady of the Snows while working in
the northern missions. He built a small chapel in her honor and commissioned artist J. Watson
Davis to paint an image of Our Lady of the Snows.
The painting was so beautiful that Fr. Schulte brought it with him when he was transferred to
St. Henry's Seminary in Belleville, Illinois, during World War II. There he, along with Fr. Edwin
J. Guild, O.M.I., and the seminary staff, fostered the devotion to the Blessed Mother as Our
Lady of the Snows.
Fr. Guild was the director of the Missionary Association, and in 1943 he started a novena to
Our Lady of the Snows, and he had the seminarians pray it every day.
Over the next ten years, many people came to St. Henry's to join their prayers to Our Lady of
the Snows, but their pilgrimages began conflicting with the seminary routine. The Oblates began
looking for a location where they could build a permanent shrine. In 1958, they purchased 80 acres
of farmland on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River Valley, and that was the beginning of
the present National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.
In short, a devotion that began near the Arctic Circle was developed in Illinois largely due to the
location of an Oblate seminary and the dedication of two special men.