Arctic Wings and a Shrine

A new exhibit at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows highlights the Missionary Oblates’ work in the Arctic, and how this work resulted in the creation of a shrine dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois.

“Arctic Wings and a Shrine” opened on August 5, the liturgical feast of Our Lady of the Snows. It is a multi-room exhibit that takes pilgrims on a journey from the Arctic to the Shrine, including how the devotion to Our Lady of the Snows was brought to Belleville in the late 1930s by former Arctic missionary, Fr. Paul Schulte, O.M.I.

Among the guests at the inauguration were the current leader of the Belleville Diocese, Bp. Michael McGovern, as well as Arctic missionary, Bp. Anthony Krotki, O.M.I. of the Diocese of Churchill-Hudson Bay, Manitoba, Canada.

Foppe Visual Communications oversaw the creation and installation of the exhibit. Chief designer was Tom Foppe of Highland, Illinois. The Oblates have been part of Tom’s life ever since he was born into a family of eight boys, the son of Carole and Ron Foppe. His great uncle was Fr. Cyril Foppe, O.M.I. His parents were very involved in the founding of the Victorious Missionaries led by Fr. John Maronic, O.M.I.

While still in his teens, Tom was invited to restore one of the original paintings of Our Lady of the Snows which had suffered significant water damage. Tom, as well as his father and his younger brother John, were part of Oblate vocational discernment programs. And Tom designed and produced the Children’s Garden at the Shrine, as well as other exhibits. Tom and his wife JoAnn are the parents of five adult children.

The exhibit begins near the main entrance to the Shrine’s Visitors’ Center with a focus on the Oblate founder, St. Eugene De Mazenod. There are videos of the saint’s life and enlarged copies of some of his letters written on the early missionaries in the Arctic.

The path then leads past pictures of what visitors can expect in the exhibit to the exhibit itself. The visitors can learn more about difficult Arctic missions, past and present, as well as about the Shrine and its origins; from a small image painted by a friend of Fr. Schulte to the now realized vision and dream of the Shrine’s founder, Fr. Edwin J. Guild, O.M.I.

The exhibit includes a special interactive children’s room. Other features of the exhibit highlight the Oblates’ worldwide
missionary efforts; the Shrine’s devotional areas, vocation to Oblate religious life and the role of the Missionary Association of Mary Immaculate USA (MAMI) and the Oblate partners in the mission of the Church.