Nearly 500 years old, the shrine of Our Lady of La Leche is the oldest Marian shrine in the US: now it’s a national shrine, elevated by the USCCB.
“Pilgrimages evoke our earthly journey toward heaven and are traditionally very special occasions for renewal in prayer. For pilgrims seeking living water, shrines are special places for living the forms of Christian prayer ‘in Church.'” – Catechism of the Catholic Church 2691
The shrine of Our Lady of La Leche is a part of the Nombre de Dios Mission in Saint Augustine, Florida, which traces its origins back to the 8th of September in 1565 when Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés landed from Spain to found the city.
“On Saturday the eighth the General landed with many banners spread, to the sounds of trumpets and the salutes of artillery. As I had gone ashore the evening before, I took a cross and went to meet him, singing the hymn ‘Te Deum Laudamus.’ The General, followed by all who accompanied him, marched up to the cross, knelt and kissed it. A large number of Indians watched these proceedings and imitated all that they saw done.”
The Franciscans with him ministered to the resident Spanish colonists of the city, and also evangelized the local indigenous peoples. In 1587, the Franciscans founded a mission on the west side of the Matanzas Bay in a Mocama village known as Nombre de Dios.
At the new mission, they erected the shine of Our Lady of La Leche, the first Marian shrine in the United States and today the oldest. It’s centerpiece is a statue of Mary nursing the Infant Jesus, a statue from King Philip II of Spain.
Last week on October 11th, the feast day of Our Lady of La Leche, Bishop Felipe J. Estévez of the Diocese of Saint Augustine announced in his homily the USCCB has elevated the shrine to national shrine status, making the oldest Marian shrine in the US now a national one.
“When we look at the image of Our Lady of La Leche, in pure beauty, we see the whole mystery of Incarnation. If Mary has a message for us today, I find it in the only words that appear in the Gospel of St. John, attributed to her: ‘Do what He tells you.’ This has been a long road to travel, this special moment has come for our shrine to be a special place of prayer for the Diocese of Saint Augustine.’
Learn more about the National Shrine of Lady Lady of La Leche at Mission Nombre de Dios here, on their official website.
“By the term shrine is understood a church or other sacred place to which numerous members of the faithful make pilgrimage for a special reason of piety, with the approval of the local ordinary. For a shrine to be called a national shrine, the conference of bishops must give its approval; for it to be called an international shrine, the approval of the Holy See is required.” – Code of Canon Law 1230-1231