After 170 years of ministry in Mercer and Auglaize counties, the Sisters of the Precious Blood are turning to the laity to secure the future of the landmark Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics.
A 501c3 not-for-profit organization will assume responsibility and operation of the Shrine on Jan. 1, 2017. The sisters are gifting the shrine and 24 acres of land to the Maria Stein Shrine Corporation.
In addition, the Legacy Fund has been created to raise the $6 million needed to generate adequate income for the maintenance and operation of the shrine. The first $2 million was donated by the Sisters of the Precious Blood. Nearly $950,000 has been pledged and donated from other sources, with an anonymous donor matching up to another $2 million. The $2 million match extends to pledges and donations made by Dec. 31, 2017.
“The German Catholic community, whose ancestors learned much of their spirituality from the Sisters of the Precious Blood, has demonstrated a real commitment to the shrine,” said Don Rosenbeck, president of Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics. “Just as local parishes are involving the laity more and more, so too, will the Shrine.”
The shrine was established in 1846 as the Sisters of the Precious Blood original motherhouse. The motherhouse was moved to Dayton in 1923, but retired Sisters continued to live at Maria Stein. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Maria Stein was also a working farm operated by the Sisters. They created crafts and vestments for priests in order to provide for themselves. Their main work, though, was Eucharistic adoration.
A centerpiece of the shrine is the relic chapel housing the second largest collection of relics in the United States. The collection includes more than 1,000 relics including those from all four Gospel writers and all but one of the apostles. The relic chapel was dedicated in 1892.
Sisters of the Precious Blood continue to volunteer at the Shrine, and several sisters live in nearby communities.
“We believe the laity are more than capable of doing and holding sacred what we have held sacred all these years,” said Sister Joyce Lehman, president of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. “Although we’re comfortable knowing that, this is still a difficult decision and it’s a sad decision for us to have to make because we spent 170 years . . .being the guardians of this land and of the rich treasure of both faith and of the relics that we have here. We do trust, however, that it’s going to be in good hands and that the ministry will continue for the greater honor and glory of God.”
Story and photos by Dave Eck