Behold thy Mother

The words of Cardinal Joszef Mindszenty, written while he was imprisoned, welcome visitors to the Mother's Shrine.

/ Deborah Wolfe

The most important creature on earth is a mother because only a mother can give life to human souls not even the angels in heaven have that realm, that glory. - Cardinal Joszef Mindszenty

Tucked away behind St. Patrick TMs Church in Laurie, a 14 foot, stainless steel sculpture of the Blessed Mother welcomes thousands of visitors each year to the National Shrine of Mary.

Our founder was Father Barnett," said Rose Vanderbeck, Marketing Director National Shrine of Mary. "He started the Mother TMs Shrine just to handle the overflow crowds at summer masses. It all began for a simple reason.

Father Barnett TMs vision of a small grotto to honor Mary inspired a surprising passion among others. After much discussion, the final design was placed in the hands of a very young man.

Matt Lee designed this, Vanderbeck said. He was a high school student.

Built in 1986, it became one of only 16 national shrines in the United States in 2003.

The masterful elegance of Lee TMs design includes fields of flowers, sparkling fountains, a stone amphitheater and the majestic statue of Mary. Sculpted by Missouri native, Don Wiegand, the youthful figure seems to shower peace and compassion upon all she surveys.

She TMs so full of life and love and giving and you can see that in her expression, Vanderbeck said. You can see she is a mother who walked the earth.

As Mary makes her 360 degree turn every four minutes, she overlooks a cherished feature of the shrine, the Mother TMs Wall of Life. The first engraving on the Mothers TM Wall of Life was April 1, 1999 with Maria Ratzinger, the mother of Pope John Paul II.

I thought we would get her name on papal letterhead and had big plans to frame and display it, Vanderbeck said with a laugh. But he simply wrote it on a scratch piece of paper and dropped it in the envelope with the papers approving the shrine. He was a very conservative pope.

Pope Benedict TMs mother TMs name was engraved in 2007 and a place for papal mothers will always be waiting. But one need not share a papal legacy to be included on the wall. The Mothers TM Wall of Life is open to all mothers living or deceased, regardless of race, color or creed.

Inscribed with the names of more than 3,700 mothers from 13 countries, the wall continues to grow with generations of new mothers.

We have many families who put there names on the wall, she continued. Including grandmothers, mothers, and daughters who are married and now have children.

More than a simple list of names, many believe that the wall helps to heal old wounds and bestow a lifetime of blessings.

All those prayers from all those masses through out the years, are said for those mothers and their families, Vanderbeck said. That TMs a lot of prayers and we can all use prayers.

Each year 50,000 - 75,000 people visit the National Shrine of Mary off Hwy. 5 in Laurie. Operation of the shrine is supported by donations and revenue from the engraving of names on the Mothers TM Wall of Life. Masses at the Shrine are every Saturday evening 8:00 p.m. and Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. from Memorial weekend until Labor Day weekend.

More information, including an online database of names on the Mothers TM Wall can be found at .