PINE BLUFFS – Roman Catholics from Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska marked the 20th anniversary of Our Lady of Peace Shrine on Saturday in Pine Bluffs with a Mass and a devotional exercise of praying in front of the Stations of the Cross.
Father August Koeune of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Cheyenne led the Mass as well as the pilgrimage through the Stations, a series of 14 carvings portraying events from Jesus Christ’s condemnation by Pontius Pilate to his entombment.
The series of Stations is named as follows: Jesus is condemned to death; Jesus is made to carry his cross; Jesus falls the first time under his cross; Jesus meets his sorrowful mother (Mary); Simon helps Jesus carry the cross; Veronica wipes the face of Jesus; Jesus falls the second time; Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem; Jesus falls the third time; Jesus is stripped of his garments; Jesus is nailed to the cross; Jesus dies on the cross; Jesus is taken down from the cross and placed in the arms of his mother; and Jesus is placed in the sepulcher.
It was the first time participants were able to walk the restored Stations since a hail storm damaged the carvings two years ago.
In front of the 13th Station, which depicts the death of Jesus on the cross, Father August led a reflection of the moment.
“Let us pause here to allow the death of Jesus to enter deeply into our consciousness, for we also enter into the death of the Lord.”
After the pilgrimage, Father August explained the importance of the Stations, also referred to as the Way of the Cross.
“If you go to Jerusalem, there are 14 spots, and these are emphasized when Jesus carried his cross,” Father August said. “These were the exact spots. It’s a remembrance of those (places) in Jerusalem. People would gather during Holy Week, even back in the first century, and they would stop at places where Jesus fell and where Jesus died on the cross.”
Father August also explained that although the shrine is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, those of the Catholic faith do not pray to her.
“We honor her because of her faithfulness,” he said. “A lot of people think we worship Mary. We honor her like you would honor your parents or grandparents.”
A Mass then took place near the 180-ton, 30-foot Our Lady of Peace sculpture, erected in 1999. The Knights of Columbus also participated in the Mass.
Ted and Marjorie Trefren of Cheyenne talked about erecting a Marian Shrine in Wyoming for many years, according to their daughter, Julie Swallow. She said her parents chose to build the shine after touring numerous shrines in Europe including in Medjugorje in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“My mom had inherited a whole lot of money, and instead of spending it frivolously, she made a pilgrimage to Yugoslavia and came back to the United States and wanted to build a shrine,” Swallow said.
Finding land proved to be a challenge, she said.
“They went all over to try to find land,” Swallow said. “They went to federal land, but they were told they couldn’t mix religion with federal (land). There were a lot of stops. Then they approached Pine Bluffs and they agreed.”
It was also her parent’s idea to celebrate Mass on the site, she said.
“They started their Mass, and every year since for 20 years we’ve been doing this Mass,” she said. “It will carry on.”
Swallow said it took some fast work to get the site ready for this year’s pilgrimage event.
“We’ve just completed about five weeks worth of grooming in one week, because of the snow and bad weather that we’ve had,” she said.
Kerrie Twito from Cheyenne said she had always heard about the shrine growing up, but this day was her first visit.
“I have a bucket list that I want to do before I turn 40 in July,” Twito said. “This is one of them. Just seeing her, I love Mother Mary. I love her. She’s mesmerizing.”