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January 26, 2023

Vatican elevates Germantown chapel to 'minor basilica' status

The Miraculous Medal Shrine at Saint Vincent’s Seminary is the second holy place in Philadelphia to receive the designation

Religion Churches
miraculous medal shrine germantown minor basilica Provided Image/The Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

The Vatican has bestowed the prestigious "minor basilica" status upon the Miraculous Medal Shrine and the church that houses it in Germantown. There is just one other minor basilica in Philadelphia and 91 others across the U.S.

The Miraculous Medal Shrine in Germantown has been designated with the prestigious "minor basilica" status by the Vatican.

Minor basilica status gives the shrine, located on the grounds of Saint Vincent’s Seminary in Northwest Philadelphia, prominence among other churches as well as certain honorifics and responsibilities. The shrine and the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception that houses it will now be called The Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

To achieve the elevated status, the church went through an application process spanning multiple years which culminated in a decree issued by Pope Francis on Wednesday. There is one other church with this status in Philadelphia, the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Pauland 91 others across the United States. Major basilicas, the four highest-ranking Roman Catholic churches, are located in Rome.

"This moment is one of great joy for the entire Church in Philadelphia," Nelson J. Pérez, archbishop of Philadelphia, said in a release. "The Miraculous Medal Shrine is a great gift drawing souls closer to Christ through the intercession of the Blessed Mother."

The Miraculous Medal Shrine is a ministry of the Vincentians of the Eastern Province. Vincentians are Roman Catholic priests and brothers that have served as faculty members at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, where Pope Francis stayed during his visit to Philadelphia in 2015, and as pastors in dioceses throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Vincentians, who draw their name from founder Saint Vincent de Paul, first arrived in Philadelphia in 1841 and established a seminary in the city’s Germantown section. In 1878, they opened a chapel offering liturgical celebrations and pastoral assistance for the working class population of the surrounding neighborhood.

In 1927, after establishing various Catholic churches and parishes for the city's immigrant and Black communities, the Vincentians commissioned an expansion of the chapel for the creation of a shrine to the Blessed Mother, who is sometimes referred to as Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

Since 1930, it has also been the site of the Perpetual Novena, a prayer of devotion recited in person every Monday and live streamed on the church's Facebook and Instagram accounts.

miraculous medal shrine vatican minor basilica altarProvided Image/The Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

With the minor basilica designation, the Romanesque-style chapel and its shrine have become "a site of pilgrimage, an historical landmark, and a house of significant sacred art," according to church officials.

The title gives the shrine privileges and responsibilities, including the celebration of the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter; the solemnity of the Holy Apostles, Peter, and Paul; and the anniversary of the pope’s election into pastoral ministry. The Basilica Shrine will also be outfitted with the papal insignia, and can display Vatican City’s coat of arms and the crossed keys of Saint Peter.

“It is an esteemed honor to be recognized by the Vatican as a Minor Basilica," Father Timothy V. Lyons, rector of the Basilica Shrine, said "We are both overjoyed and humbled by this recognition. This historic proclamation marks the next chapter in the Shrine’s history and recognizes the significant role it has played in the Catholic Church, the Philadelphia Archdiocese and the Shrine community.”

The shrine, located at 500 E. Chelten Avenue, is open to visitors Sunday from 8:30 to 11 a.m., Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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