Burrillville Shrine marks centennial year with special events, introduction of new Rosary Walk

Father Jose Parathanal

BURRILLVILLE – Tucked away in the corner of Nasonville, St. Theresa’s Shrine has offered solace to those in need of prayer, quiet, forgiveness and healing for 100 years, serving parishioners from near and far. This year will be special, however, as plans are underway to celebrate that centennial by offering plenary indulgences to those who visit, along with a new addition to the array of gardens and religious statuary for visitors to enjoy.

“We’ve been making this place more beautiful, more prayerful to help bring more people here,” said Father Jose Parathanal. “Our goal was to make it more peaceful, more powerful… with more meaning.”

The location first became a powerful, prayerful destination for pilgrims due to a local resident, Florilda Faford, the beneficiary of a miraculous cure, according to stories of the shrine’s origins. Faford had been diagnosed with an incurable disease, but a newly appointed pastor at the time, Father Desrochers, and two nuns visited her and began a novena to St. Theresa for her healing. When she was suddenly cured, people began pilgrimages to the Shrine of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, which was established in August 23, 1923, shortly after Faford’s reported miracle occurred.

St. Therese of Liseieux, born in 1873, and known as “The Little Flower,” is one of the most popular saints in Catholic Church history. The Burrillville shrine was the first to be built in North America honoring her.

Not surprisingly, visitors come as individuals, families and in group tour buses to visit the shrine.

“They come from New York, Boston, Providence, all over,” explains Parathanal.

“They come to picnic, for inspiration, to meditate…for many reasons,” adds Lorraine O’Rourke, a longtime parishioner and volunteer at St. Theresa’s Shrine. “It’s a destination for folks to come and spend some peaceful time alone.”

With a special Plenary Indulgence from the Vatican being offered this year, Parathanal expects numbers to increase, especially with the arrival of Bishop Salvatore Matano of Rochester, N.Y., and Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Mass. Both Bishops were previously members of the Diocese of Providence. A special reception will be held for Matano following Mass on July 23, while McManus will be giving a talk on the life and theology of St. Therese of Lisieux on August 4.

The Plenary Indulgence is available for those who visit the shrine during the centennial year. It remits any temporal punishment due for sin, either on earth or in purgatory, if the visitor sacramentally confesses their sins, receive Holy Communion, prays for the intentions of the Holy Father and has “the interior disposition of the sense of holiness with a complete detachment from sin, including venial sin,” according to Catholic teachings.

“I expect more people from Rhode Island for that reason,” said Parathanal. “I expect more people throughout the whole year, but especially for the celebrations and the dedication of the rosary garden.”

The Shrine holds a major celebration every year on August 23. The Centennial Celebration Mass and Dedication of the newly built Rosary Walk will be held on August 20 beginning at noon with a Mass by Rev. Robert Evans, Auxiliary Bishop of Providence, retired.

Adding to the event is the fact that Parathanal is a member of the Carmelite Order, as was St. Theresa. The Carmelites, formally known as the, “Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel,” is a Roman Catholic mendicant religious order for men and women. Parathanal is a member of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate from Kerala, India. In addition to his duties at the parish, Parathanal is a canon lawyer and serves as a judge on the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal.

“It is the first time we’ve had a pastor at St. Theresa’s who is a Carmelite,” said O’Rourke. “We are honored to have him as our pastor.”

There is plenty to see at St. Theresa’s Shrine besides the Shrine itself, including statues of religious figures, garden walks, and a number of religious shrines, including a set of stairs, representing the Holy Stairs in Rome, adorned with a special plaque from the Vatican indicating its importance, as an exact replica. Parathanal explained that pilgrims come at times to climb the stairs on their knees to ask for forgiveness.

“It’s a pretty special place,” said O’Rourke. “It’s a holy place. Everyone comes for their own spiritual strengths and reasons. Whatever faith you have, if you want a little bit of spiritual healing, it’s here.”

In July of 2019, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Parish merged with Our Lady of Good Help Parish in Mapleville, and is now known as Our Lady of Good Help Parish and St. Theresa’s Shrine. The shrine is located at 35 Dion Drive, and is open year-round from sunrise to sunset. Visitors may stroll among the beautiful Church of the Little Flower, the newly built Rosary Walk, the outdoor Chapel, Holy Stairs, Stations of the Cross, Garden of the Saints, and the Shrines of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Fatima. Picnic tables are available outdoors and the hall can be used for meals during periods of inclement weather.

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  1. I graduated from St. Theresa’s school in 1960. I had a superior education in the simple four-room school above the church. My basic education by the nuns prepared me for high school and beyond, and the friendships that I made there are still with me today. We were blessed to attend such an amazing school, and I will always treasure my memories at St. Theresa’s. I am thrilled to see the beautiful grounds, and new additions that will bring visitors from all over.

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