A shrine to St. Alphonsus Liguori, our patron saint, greets visitors as they travel up the driveway toward the church named in his honor.
His statue is one of six located in stone grottoes built in the 1930s. The other shrines are dedicated to Our Lady of Olives, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Matilda, St. Claire of Assisi and St. Expedite.
Father Ferdinand H. Angel officiated at the formal dedication of three of the shrines on Oct. 10, 1937. Built in the Old World style of native stone, the shrines shelter the terra cotta statues imported from Italy—Our Lady of Olives, protectress against lightning; St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks; and Saint Expedite.
In 1940—the centennial year of the church’s dedication—the second set of shrines were dedicated to St. Christopher, Saint Claire of Assisi and St. Matilda.
The St. Alphonsus statue was added later and the St. Christopher statue that previously graced the grottoes was moved to the nearby Knights of Columbus property on Swinderman Drive in Wexford.
(The term “shrine” is used here to mean a place containing a religious image or statue. None of these shrines meet the strict criteria to be called a “National Shrine”. Click here for information about how a place is designated a “National Shrine” by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. )
Parish’s patron saint
The St. Alphonsus statue originally was installed in 1981 near the “new side” entrance to the church. It later was moved to the shrine alcove at the front entrance driveway.
St. Alphonsus founded the Redemptorist order of priests, who served our parish in the 1840s when the Wexford area was mainly a farming community.
In March 1871, Pope Pius IX declared him a Doctor of the Church, and in 1950, Pope Pius XII declared Alphonsus the official patron of moralists and of confessors.
Our Lady of Olives
Patroness of lightning, pregnant women
The tradition of prayer to Our Lady of Olives, protectress against lightning, began in the 15th century after the Church of Murat in Cantal, France, was destroyed by a fire ignited by a lightning strike. Only a wooden statue of Mary remained untouched by the flames.
No one is sure where the name, Our Lady of the Olives, comes from. Some say it refers to the wood from which she is carved; others say it is an allusion to suffering in the Garden of Olives or a reference to “a fair olive tree” in Sirach 24:14.
Since lightning is a fierce enemy of the farmer, devotion to Our Lady of Olives was strong in the farming community of Wexford. Father Ferdinand Angel shared that devotion and organized the men of the parish in the 1930s to build the shrine dedicated to her.
It is dedicated to the memory of his parents and Mr. And Mrs. John Hartzer.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha
Feast Day: July 14
Patroness of the environment and ecology
Kateri Tekakwitha became the first Native American to be declared a saint when she was canonized in 2012. When her shrine was dedicated on the St. Alphonsus parish grounds, she was referred to as Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha—she had been declared venerable by the Catholic Church in 1943 and was beatified in 1980.
Devotion to Kateri is responsible for establishing Native American ministries in Catholic churches all over the United States and Canada.
The daughter of a Catholic Algonquin mother and a Mohawk warrior, St. Kateri was born in 1656 near the town of Auriesville, N.Y. She was 4 years old when her mother died of smallpox. The disease also attacked Kateri and scarred her face.
Kateri lived close to French Jesuit priests. When she converted to Catholicism and was baptized at the age of 20, she incurred great hostility from her tribe. The “Lily of the Mohawks” went to a Christian colony of Indians in Canada where she lived a life dedicated to prayer, penitential practices and care for the sick and aged.
When she died in 1680 at the age of 24, witnesses said her smallpox scars miraculously disappeared minutes after her death.
Her shrine was dedicated to the memory of Mr. And Mrs. Laughlin McConnell.
Feast Day: April 19
Patron of expeditious solutions
The statue of St. Expedite shows him to be a Roman soldier, young in age and holding a palm branch, the sign of martyrdom. The story of this saint is obscure but devotion to him was particularly strong in Germany in the 18th century. His brief life most probably ended as many other Christian soldiers in the Roman army when he refused to offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods.
One account of his life describes him as a general of a Roman legion martyred in the 4th century. Pictures depict him with the Latin word “hodie” meaning “today”—a message for us to live each day, leaving the past and future to God.
At the time of the shrine dedication in October 1937, Army planes flew overhead and dropped flowers, according to church records. Local pilots were invited to take part in the service and an honor guard from the Aero Club of Pittsburgh and the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve were present.
Although St. Expedite often is referred to as the patron saint for expeditious solutions, the literature from the unveiling refers to him as the patron saint of aviators and air travelers.
The shrine to St. Expedite was donated in memory of Herman P. Brandt.
St. Claire of Assisi
Feast Day: Aug. 11
Patroness of television, sore eyes
Born the daughter of a count and countess in Assisi, Italy, St. Claire was inspired to live her life for God after hearing St. Francis of Assisi preach in the streets.
With a great desire to imitate Francis and live a poor humble life for Jesus, Claire (also spelled Clare) ran away from home to a little chapel outside Assisi and gave herself to God. St. Francis guided her to the Benedictine convent where the sisters helped her embrace the religious life. Claire then founded her own order of sisters called the “poor Claires”.
Claire served as the superior for her order and opened convents all over Europe. Contemporary accounts glow with admiration of her life in the convent of San Damiano in Assisi. She served the sick, waited on table and washed the feet of the nuns.
Toward the end of her life, when she was too ill to attend Mass, an image of the service would display on the wall of her cell, thus her patronage of television.
St. Claire’s shrine at St. Alphonsus was erected in 1940 and dedicated to the memory of parishioner Claire E. Hartzer.
Feast Day: March 14
Patroness of parents with large families
St. Matilda, queen of Germany and wife of King Henry I, used her position and wealth to aid the poor and underprivileged of the kingdom. Although her family rebuked her for her charity, her strong faith and gentleness eventually won them over.
Matilda established convents and monasteries throughout the kingdom. At the time of her death in 968, she was penniless, having given all her wealth to the needy.
Although devotion to St. Matilda has diminished with time, her patience with family members has given us an example of love in the face of domestic problems.
Her shrine was dedicated at St. Alphonsus in 1940 and donated in the memory of Matilda Cole, whose birthday is on St. Matilda’s feast day.