Changes underway at Shrine bookstore with eye toward fair labor

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BURRILLVILLE – For decades, visitors to the Shrine of the Little Flower could access the bookstore with a ring of a bell.

A nun who lives at the property – a peaceful, 8.23 acre lot in Nasonville – would make her way down to answer the door.

It was an undeniably quaint method of selling mementos from the unique venue – a cultural center operated by the Burrillville Catholic Collaborative and home to St. Theresa’s church – but it wasn’t exactly the most convenient way to attract customers.

And products found inside the store were often religious trinkets made in China, or books you could probably find on Amazon.

Now, that is changing, with a volunteer keeping regular hours at the small but charming space, and an overhaul of the stock it offers.

“We’re trying to carry things that are unique and that you can’t find elsewhere,” said Shrine Coordinator Silvia Aldridge.

To that end, Aldridge recently ordered a selection of essential books written by St. Thérèse. The store is also accepting donations of older religious artifacts from locals who might be downsizing, or unsure what to do with items left behind after a family member’s passing.

Aldridge said the new focus is also to offer products more in keeping with Catholic social teachings about labor.

“We cannot guarantee the working conditions of the people who make them,” Aldridge said of the current stock of plastic rosaries, statues of saints, and other faith-based items currently on the shelves.

The store is now holding a sale in hopes of phasing out old stock.

And longtime parishioner and volunteer Bev Munyon has stepped up to organize the space, and offer regular hours, manning the cash register on Thursdays from noon to 3 p.m.

Aldridge has also been working on new signage and other upgrades for the shop, part of an ongoing effort to revitalize the century-old Shrine.

“Over the years, it’s fallen into a bit of neglect,” she said.

The group has scheduled a Shrine Volunteer Work Day to be held Saturday, Aug. 14 from 2:30 to 5 p.m. in preparation for the annual Anniversary Day Mass. Tasks will include cleaning and yard work on the extensive grounds, including the outdoor chapel.

The Shrine Anniversary Day celebration will be held on Sunday, Aug. 15, beginning with the Rosary and Mass at 10 a.m. followed by a welcome address, and coffee and pastries. Attendees will then have the option to pray the Scala Sancta devotion with Sister Grace, or take a self-guided tour of the Shrine grounds, followed by expositions, and ending with a benediction, scheduled for 2 p.m.

Those who would like to volunteer to help with either the event or pre-event cleanup can contact Aldridge at  by email at silviaaldredge@gmail.com or by phone at the parish office 401-568-8280. Students can receive credit toward volunteer hour requirements.

The events come in conjunction with an effort by the caretakers of the space to reach out to northern Rhode Island residents, and transform the Shrine, the only recognized place of pilgrimage in the state, into a educational, cultural and devotional center for the community.

The outdoor space features much to see – for both the faithful and the curious – and is open to visitor every day from sunrise to sundown. Aldridge is also booking fall field trips and retreats for students, with information on visit planning and more found at https://burrillvillecatholic.org/pilgrimages.

More information about the Shrine’s unique history, and the contributions of often anonymous volunteers can be found here.

And those who find themselves by the door to the bookstore on Munyon’s off days can still ring the bell.

“The sisters are more than happy to help people,” Aldridge said.

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