Bishop Felipe J. Estévez will dedicate the Santa Fe Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche at St. Madeline Sophie Catholic Church on Saturday, Dec. 5, beginning with Mass at 4 p.m. The church and shrine are located at 17155 NW U.S. Highway 441 in High Springs, Fla.
The devotion to Our Lady of La Leche has special significance in the Diocese of St. Augustine, which encompasses 17 counties of North Florida.
From the time Spanish explorers established the town of St. Augustine in “La Florida” in 1565, they brought with them a particular devotion to the Blessed Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
On Sept. 8, 1565, the first Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated on these shores – it was the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Shortly after, a special devotion to Nuestra Señora de La Leche y Buen Parto – Our Lady of the Milk and Happy Delivery began in Florida.
Since the early 1600s, this devotion has been kept alive by countless people of faith who travel to the oldest Marian shrine in the United States to seek the Blessed Mother’s intercession for a safe delivery of their child, for the gift of fertility, for those seeking to strengthen their faith and for many other special intentions.
In 2012, the Holy See granted a petition by Bishop Estévez for a feast in honor of Our Lady of La Leche to be inserted into the local liturgical calendar for the Diocese of St. Augustine each year on October 11.
The Santa Fe Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche, grounded in the rich traditions of the shrine in St. Augustine, will provide people living in the western counties of the Diocese of St. Augustine and others traveling to Florida a place for pilgrimage and spiritual renewal.
The name of the new shrine has rich meaning and historical significance to the people in the High Springs area. Santa Fe (meaning Holy Faith) is derived from an old Franciscan Mission named Santa Fe Toloca once located near the famous 75 mile Santa Fe River which crisscrosses the High Springs area.
The original St. Madeline Sophie Catholic Church that was located in the heart of High Springs was moved to the parish’s current site 35 years ago. The building that was once used as an adoration chapel by the parish has been renovated for the new shrine. This beautiful 18-acre setting is perfect for silent prayer and contemplation and includes a walking trail with many unique devotional opportunities for pilgrims. There is also a Marian grotto, outdoor Stations of the Cross, memorial garden and cemetery on the property.
St. Madeline Sophie Parish is located close to I-75, making it easy for pilgrims to find. The public is invited to the Mass and dedication.
For more information, please call Father Sebastian George, pastor of St. Madeline Sophie Catholic Church at (386) 454-2358 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.