By Joe Sehnert
Director, National Shrine of St. Thérèse
There are unique places on this earth where one can feel the presence of God. Nestled in the vast 17 million acres of the Tongass National Forest is one of those touch-soul places, the National Shrine of St. Thérèse. Here, Alaska’s patroness continues to call pilgrims to the “Little Way,” a simple yet powerful way of growing closer to God.
The 46 forested acres that make up the Shrine also include the Chapel, Columbarium, five cabins, beautiful gardens and prayer trails.
Shrine Chapel is located on a small island connected to the mainland by a short causeway. The stones used to construct the chapel were gathered from the nearby beach. The chapel cornerstone was placed on October 30, 1938.
Sunday Mass is held weekly from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Shrine Island is covered with cedar and hemlocks with an understory of alder around its perimeter. Encircling Shrine Island are the Stations of the Cross, made of volunteer-gathered beach stone, like the chapel. On Good Friday each year, many pilgrims make their way with Jesus along the Via Dolorosa.
The Shrine cabins are used for family getaways, organized and personal retreats, summer camps and days of renewal. Accommodations range from rustic to exceptional. The Lodge was built in 1933 and is our main retreat facility, sleeping 24. The Jubilee cabin was built in 2000 and sleeps 14. Our Little Flower Cabin is exceptional and sleeps 4. The Post Office Cabin is beautifully detailed and is our newest cabin sleeping 4. The Hermitage is excellent, sleeping 2 with wood heat, no electricity or running water.
The Shrine gardens are amazing. We have Biblical and Marian gardens planted with flowers, shrubs, herbs, trees and vines referenced in the Bible and used by nuns or monks to teach the faith. Volunteers maintain the gardens through our Adopt-a-garden program.
The Columbarium was constructed overlooking the water in 1998. The columbarium units are made of Zimbabwe granite. We have both single and double niche units available. Mass is held at the Columbarium annually on Memorial Day.
The walking paths and trails of the Shrine meander along the ocean from an area known as the Breadline north to Pearl Harbor on Lynn Canal.
The Good Shepherd Rosary Trail takes the pilgrim on a meditative walk through the mysteries of the rosary. Each of the mysteries is illuminated by bronze plaques and punctuated by flowers, trees, shrubs and plants, specifically relating to the mystery either by the story, color or plant characteristic. For example: as you walk/pray the Sorrowful Mysteries, the trees are weeping and the flower colors darker. The trail moves along with the Mysteries on your left and the ocean to your right ending at the grotto of the Pieta.
We invite you to visit the Shrine of St. Thérèse and experience the peace, tranquility and beauty of this magnificent spiritual gem of the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau.
The Shrine is open seven days a week.
October – April 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
May – September 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Cabin Rentals –
Director: Joe Sehnert
Caretaker: Colleen Sehnert