The Sanctuary complex of Our Lady of Sorrows overlooks the rolling countryside west of St. Louis. This peaceful place is home to a bewildering series of different chapels and representations of the Madonna, with an intricate and miraculous history. The first Germans who settled here in 1847 celebrated the liturgy in a barn, in which they placed a statue known as the Lady of Weisse (White Lady). In 1852 the statuew was moved to the church of San Martino which was made of trunks and in 1873 to a new stone church.
The Franciscans, a few years after taking over the parish in 1877, replaced the statue with a larger one, keeping the old White Lady in an attic. In the autumn of 1887, a new pastor arrived from Germany, bringing his nephew August Mitsch to serve as a sacristan. In May, August discovered the old statue and made for it a sanctuary under a flowering dogwood tree. As more people came to the sanctuary, August and his friends built a wooden hut to protect the statue, and then a small octagonal log chapel complete with stained glass and German bells.
Then, in 1890, the parish purchased a replica of Wilhelm Achtermann’s Pietà in the cathedral of Muenster (destroyed in the Second World War, a copy is located in the basilica of St. Prassede in Rome). They placed it in the chapel, and once again the ancient White Lady was moved to the attic. The Shrine of the Sorrowful Mother became a popular place of devotion. In the spring of 1891, the area received so much rain that farmers were unable to harvest their wheat. It was still pouring on June 21, when the parish priest, George Hoehn, promised an annual pilgrimage to the Sorrowful Mother, if the rains stopped. The following morning, the clear sky heralded a sunny summer, in which the crops were collected and the renovation of the church was completed before the rain came in.
The first annual pilgrimage took place during the thanksgiving liturgy for the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin on 8 September. An opposite situation occurred in 1894: a terrible spring drought. Farmers burned candles to the Sorrowful Mother, praying for rain. On the night of June 24-25, the chapel caught fire. Everything was burning, except for the Pietà and its veil. This miracle was followed by heavy rain, and again the crop was saved.
In the meantime, a Lourdes grotto was built, with statues of the Immaculate Virgin and Saint Bernadette, but unlike the French pilgrimage site, it has no water. With prayers to Mary, despite general skepticism, Fr. Hoehn ordered to dig a well. On September 3, 1900, the seekers dug and hit a source. In a short time the restored chapel could not contain all the pilgrims. Afterwards the parishioners decided to extract building stones from an excavation and moved the ancient Chapel of the Sorrowful Mother to the north. Father Hoehn blessed the ground for a new chapel on July 28, 1906. For its dedication in 1910, the Pietà was placed on a side altar, and the old White Lady, with new paint and clothing, restored on the main altar.
A standing statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, whose heart pierced by swords, occupies the small chapel made of trunks. Further little sanctuaries around the ground include a Mount of Olives, Via Crucis, Holy Sepulcher and the cave of Saint Isidore, patron saint of farmers. There are two annual pilgrimages, the third Sunday of May and the second Sunday of September.
Pietà (inventario del registro nazionale dei luoghi storici, www.dnr.mo.gov)
(Informazioni dal sito del santuario, http://historicshrine.com/shrine-of-our-lady-of-sorrows)