The Salesian National Shrine
of MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS
HISTORY OF THE MARIAN SHRINE PROPERTY
The property of 150 acres (Greyridge Farm) was purchased by Provincial Fr. Ernest Giovannini from the estate of Mrs. Mabel T. Filor on December 4, 1945. This included what is now the Residence building (built before 1917) and the chauffeur's cottage (The day Nursery).
Freshman and sophomore high school aspirants from Suffern and junior and senior aspirants from Goshen moved here. Father John Lomango was their first director. Aspirants lived in the cottage, Salesians in the residence building. The old stable was the recreation room. Brother John Casula bulldozed roads, Father Mario Stortz and Brothers Peter Ferraris and Frank Gambino ran the farm.
In 1947 Don Bosco Juniorate was born, with Father Joseph Caselli as director and a staff of 7 priests and 5 brothers.
In 1950 the foundations of what is now the youth center - the gym building, Don Bosco Chapel, 2 dining rooms and a kitchen were laid. Later, two dorms were added. The gym building was dedicated on May 24, 1953 by Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York. Attending the ceremony were the Honorable James Farley, former Postmaster-General under FDR, and Monsignor Middleton, archdiocesan superintendent of schools. Father Peter Lappin was master of ceremonies at the event.
The first group of aspirants from "West Haverstraw" went to the novitiate in Newton in 1951. In 1952 Camp Namuncura began, with 23 resident campers.
In 1954 Father Attilio Giovannini bcame director, with a staff of eight priests and six brothers. He added "sodalities" and weekend retreats for 7th and 8th grade boys, which were conducted by vocation director (1953 - 1959) Father Vincent Duffy, with the help of the clerics from Newton.
In the Marian Year 1954 an outdoor altar of white marble was erected and the Rosary way built, including 15 life-sized statues of the mysteries of the rosary in Italian marble and a shamrock-shaped entry way. The Rosary Way, was formally blessed by Salesian Bishop Stephen Ferrando of Krishnagar, India on May 6, 1956. Later a picnic area , snack bar and rest rooms were added in the vicinity. Under the loving care of Father Lomagno, the Shrine developed in a major operation.
Rector Major Father Renato Ziggiotti made two visits to West Haverstraw during his term: May 27-29, 1955 and March 1960. At his second visit, the house also welcomed Bishop Peter Carreto from Thailand and Bishop Louis Morrow from India. Father Archimedes Pianazzi came as extraordinary visitor that year (1960).
In 1961 Provincial Father August Bosio moved the clerical aspirants to Goshen and the coadjutor aspirants, who had been in Paterson when Father Penna was provincial, to West Haverstraw.
November 23, 1963 saw a special Marian Exposition here, organized by Brother Gerald Meegan. For the entertainment there was a 30 piece orchestra under the direction of Brother Mario Audero and damatics.
A new building (Saint Joseph's Hall; presently the conference center) was built and dedicated May 17, 1964 to the house workshops and juniorate, which changed its name to "Don Bosco Technical Institute." But the numbers of coadjutor aspirants dwindled, resulting in the institute being closed in February 1968, the brother aspirants joining the clerical aspirants in Goshen and the Brothers-in-training going to Newton.
The shrine was now the main focus of the aspostolate. A pavilion chapel was completed in the spring of 1965, and the name of the place was changed to "The Marian Shrine" in 1967. Thanks to good public relations on the part of Father Lomagno and Father Lappin, the number of pilgrims and visitors grew. For the weekend of August 15 - 18 1968, the pilgrim statue from Fatima (along with the Bishop of Fatima) was here at the shrine, the crowd for the main Mass on August 15 was estimated at 10,000 people. The archdiocese of New York and diocese of Brooklyn began to encourage Hispanic pilgrimages to our shrine in the 1960's. The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel ( July 16) in 1972 became Italian American Day at the Shrine. In March 1974, the shrine held a successful Marian Year Symposium, under the leadership of Mariologist Father Frank Klauder.
Now that the shrine was an established and growing operation, the provincial (Father John Malloy) studied the feasibility of setting up a retreat house here. Plans were drawn up by architect Brother Andrew LaCombe and approved September 21, 1971 for a brick and wooden structure with modern rooms, to be built behind and connected to the cafeteria. Father A.J. Louis was the first director of the retreat house, and the first group was of men from Corpus Christi Parish in Port Chester. Overnight youth retreats were restricted to the dormitories.
Presently, the Retreat House caters to over 20000 kids, young adults and adults in retreat ministry.
Father John Lomagno 1947 - 1951
Father Joseph Caselli 1951 - 1954
Father Attilio Giovannini 1954 - 1958
Father Bernard Justen 1958 - 1961
Father Ernest Faggione 1961 - 1963
Father Emery Stegman 1963 - 1966
Father Dominic DeBlase 1966 - 1969
Father Joseph Stella 1969 - 1975
Father Paul Aronica 1975 - 1978
Father James Curran 1978 - 1979
Father August Bosio 1979 - 1982
Father Richard McCormick 1983 - 1985
Father Thomas Dunne 1985 - 1988
Father Patrick Angelucci 1988 - 1991
Father David Moreno 1991 - 1994
Father Roy Shelly 1994 - 1999
Father John Puntino 1999 - 2002
Father Steven Dumais 2002 - 2009
Father John Puntino 2009 - 2011
Father James McKenna 2011 - Present