We who minister at the Shrine are committed to work collaboratively with one another and with you. Our aim is to provide a place of prayer, conscious reflection, and social action that is hospitable to and calls forth the gifts of all who come to the Shrine. We do this in the spirit of Jesus Christ and of Saint Eugene de Mazenod, founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
St. Joseph the Worker Shrine is located in downtown Lowell, in the historic district. It’s a friendly and welcoming place for those of all faiths or no faith. Visitors come here to receive the sacrament of reconciliation as well as to participate in the celebration of Mass. But many come throughout the day to be alone with the Lord in quiet prayer and reflection.
Visitors on pilgrimage are most welcome and they come from various parts of New England and beyond. Space in front of the Shrine is reserved for buses. Contact 978-458-6346 or email us for more information.
The Oblate Historical Museum, located on the 4th floor of the Shrine will be open each Saturday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm beginning November 2nd. Br. Richard Cote, OMI will be happy to receive visitors for tours at 10:30, 11:30 am and 12:30 pm. Visitors are invited to discover the work of the Missionary Oblates in Lowell since 1868 and our various missions of Haiti, Philippines, Japan, Tahiti and among the Inuit of Northern Canada. Admission is free. Donations for the upkeep of the museum cheerfully accepted.
Pope John Paul II remind us that shrines are places in which “believers not only revive their faith but also become clearly aware of the duties that derive from it in the social field.” St. Joseph the Worker Shrine has a special fund for the poor, the St. Anthony Fund. Those who worship at the shrine are most generous in contributing to this fund. As a result, the Shrine is fortunate in being able to reach out to many in need. In addition, there are several opportunities for the Shrine staff to assist and cooperate with other organizations in the city that work in various ways for the poor and needy.
The Oblates and the City of Lowell
As a lasting tribute to Father Andre Garin, OMI, first pastor of St. Joseph Church, the citizens of Lowell on October 22, 1896 dedicated a statue in his memory in front of St. Jean Baptist Church, his last building. Over the years Oblates established and staffed new parishes for the ever-increasing Lowell population and these in turn furnished many priestly and religious vocations to the Oblate Congregation. Oblates have also served as Lowell Police and Fire Department chaplains.
Lowell no longer a mill city has not forgotten its past. Several of the former mills serve as active museums that are maintained be the Lowell National Historical Park. To preserve its past history, St. Joseph Shrine opened The Oblate Historical Museum in 1995. Among collectables from Oblate foreign missionaries the visitor can see a dramatic 5′ by 7′ painting of Lowell by renowned artist Wayne Morrell of Rockport, MA.
Oblates of Mary Immaculate
The Oblates are a worldwide missionary congregation of priests and brothers founded in France in 1816. We live together in community as brothers and bring the good news of the Gospel to all-but especially the poor. The dictionary defines Oblate as “a religious offering”. Oblates make an offering of their lives by taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
The founder of the Oblates was Father Eugene de Mazenod. As a young priest he ministered to the dock workers of Marseilles. Up to that time priests preached in classical French, oblivious that many of the working class spoke “Provençal,” a dialect of that region of France. Fr. de Mazenod soon realized that language was an obstacle to their spiritual growth. His decision to preach to the people in their own language, combined with his natural eloquence, opened the door to a very successful ministry.
In 1837 Fr. de Mazenod became bishop of Marseilles and governed the Oblates until his death on May 21, 1861. On December 3, 1995, Bishop de Mazenod was made a Saint of the Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II.
In the sanctuary of the Shrine church is a life-size statue of the young Father de Mazenod, a work of internationally renowned sculptor Mico Kaufman.
A Little Bit of History
On April 18, 1868, Father André Garin O.M.I. arrived in Lowell to preach a mission at St. Patrick’s Church to the hundreds of French-speaking mill workers, who had migrated from Canada. The local diocesan priest, Father O’Brien, could only minister in English. This was a barrier for the many Canadians who were busy keeping the thousands of bobbins turning in the area mills. A true disciple of St. Eugene, Father Garin preached to the working people, not in “Provencal”, but in French as it was spoken in Canada.
The preaching was so successful that the people refused to let him leave. They raised enough money for a down payment on an abandoned Unitarian church structure at 37 Lee Street. (Hey, that’s us!) Soon a group of volunteers rearranged the interior of the church for the first Mass which was held on Sunday, May 3, it was St. Joseph’s Day. (Hey, that’s where we got our name!)
As the French population grew, Father Garin began the construction of St. John the Baptist church in 1890 to accommodate more parishioners. Our building here on Lee Street remained as a chapel, and in 1956, with the encouragement of Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston, we were blessed as a shrine in honor of St. Joseph the Worker.