Living Hope Newsletter – September 2019

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The National Shrine of St. Jude: A Beacon of Hope for 90 years

On a fall night in 1929, the people of Chicago flocked to the newly built Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on the South Side for the first-ever Solemn Novena to St. Jude.

What were these pilgrims searching for? It’s a simple answer, and one that keeps the devotion to St. Jude alive 90 years later: the promise of hope. Times were tough, as they always seem to be, and people came with their suffering and their need for the intercession of St. Jude, patron of seemingly impossible and difficult causes.

The founding father of the Shrine, Spanish Claretian James Tort, was devoted to St. Jude Thaddeus, who was relatively unknown to the general Catholic population at the time. During the Middle Ages, St. Jude was widely venerated, but perhaps because of the confusion between his name and that of Judas Iscariot, he slipped into obscurity.

Many of Tort’s parishioners were laborers in the nearby steel mills and stockyards, which were drastically cutting back their work forces in early 1929. The reduction of jobs was an ominous sign of the economic depression that would culminate with the stock market crash on Wall Street the following October. Fr. Tort soon started to see breadlines forming in the community, and his heart went out to his neighbors—Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

In an effort to lift the spirits of his parishioners, Fr. Tort began regular devotions to St. Jude. On the first Sunday of Lent, February 17, 1929, Auxiliary Bishop Bernard J. Sheil visited South Chicago to dedicate the statue of St. Jude Thaddeus.

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During that Lenten season, Fr. Tort noticed many of his parishioners praying before the statue of St. Jude. When all of the statues in the church were covered with purple cloth during Holy Week in late March, he quietly moved the statue of St. Jude to a place of prominence on the right side of the church.

The congregation showed such great response to the devotion to the Patron of Hope over the next few months that an overflow crowd attended services on the final night of the first Novena, St. Jude’s feast day, October 28, 1929. More than 1,000 people stood outside the church to hear the service.

Word of the devotions to St. Jude gradually spread from that tiny corner of Chicago to other parts of the country. During the Great Depression and World War II, thousands of men, women, and children attended novenas at the Shrine; devotion to the “patron saint of hopeless causes” spread throughout the country.

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Since 1970, Fr. Mark Brummel, C.M.F., has served as director of the National Shrine of St. Jude, witnessing the profound faith of so many who send their petitions to the Shrine as well as visit.

“I know people today who have been regulars at the novena services for over 50 years,” says Father Brummel. “The Shrine attracts a variety of people, young and old, from different backgrounds and cultures. This devotion to St. Jude truly has a universal appeal.”

Because the majority of St. Jude devotees cannot personally attend novena services in Chicago, the St. Jude League distributes novena literature throughout the country so devotees can participate in the novena wherever they live. Every year hundreds of thousands send their petitions by mail, through the Shrine’s website, or deliver them in person during the five Solemn Novenas to St. Jude held at the Shrine.

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What Fr. Brummel remembers most throughout his many years at the National Shrine of St. Jude are not extraordinary cures or miraculous interventions but the quiet confident trust of all those devoted to St. Jude. “One person may face a serious health problem, another may have to cope with a difficult family member or struggle with the loss of a loved one, but they come to the Shrine or send their petitions with confidence in their prayer that St. Jude will intercede with God in their time of need—and I am inspired by that.”

The late Father Joachim DePrada, C.M.F., one of the successors to Fr. Tort as director of the National Shrine, once commented: “The continued interest in St. Jude indicates the hand of Providence at work. The change that St. Jude has wrought in the spiritual lives of many thousands of persons substantiates this belief."