Far out in rural Canungra, Australia, is a magnificent shrine dedicated to Our Lady.
The Shrine of Our Lady, Help of Christians — better known as Marian Valley — was opened and blessed Dec. 10, 1995, by Bishop Eugene Cuskelly, then auxiliary bishop of the Brisbane Archdiocese in the state of Queensland.
Since 1995, the shrine has grown into a beautiful place of retreat and worship for visitors from around the world.
The shrine is under the care of the monks of the Order of St. Paul the First Hermit (the Pauline Fathers). Through their dedication and the zeal of the volunteers, Marian Valley has been transformed into an impressively beautiful religious center, though reaching it is a challenge.
Be prepared for a long drive and rural roads.
The shrine is located about one hour and 15 minutes from Brisbane and 45 minutes inland from Australia’s historic Gold Coast.
Upon arrival, pilgrims take in the sprawling complex, which features a monastery for the Pauline Fathers, St. Joseph’s Retreat Center (which houses about 20 retreatants) and the main chapel. Known as the Black Madonna Chapel, a copy of the miraculous icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa — patroness of Poland — hangs behind the main altar. This chapel is the center of the countless religious devotions that take place in this valley.
A favorite spot for reflection is the long track of the Stations of the Cross. The magnificent life-size Stations of the Cross culminate in a triumphant display of the Resurrected Christ.
The valley is filled with impressive shrines and chapels specific to different ethnic Catholic communities. The various communities over the years have donated their time and treasure to build these special shrines. They range from familiar Marian apparitions, such as Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Guadalupe, to unfamiliar devotions, such as the Slovenian Chapel dedicated to Our Lady, Help of Christians, and a Tongan Chapel dedicated to St. Francis Xavier. There is even a Vietnamese Chapel dedicated to Our Lady of La Vang.
The first shrine to be built in Marian Valley was the Shrine of St. Joseph. A novena to St. Joseph is prayed every Wednesday, and on March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, a special day of Lenten spiritual renewal under the patronage of St. Joseph is conducted.
Robin Maciejewski, who manages the retreat center, has lived at the shrine for six years. Maciejewski explained that the local community “tends to have the greatest devotion to the original shrines that were first built.”
“Father Robert J. Fox [of Fatima Family Apostolate] came out [to Marian Valley] with the traveling statue of Our Lady of Fatima, and that was what first put Marian Valley on the map,” Maciejewski said.
“Fatima is one of our major devotions. We have the First Saturdays’ devotions, the Eucharistic procession on the 13th each month, and, speaking for myself, as an Australian, that is where my heart lies.”
Marian Valley volunteer Loraine Whitehead was looking for a holy place to visit when she moved to Australia four years ago. She picked up a brochure on Marian Valley and made her way there.
“It just felt like home the moment I walked on the premises,” Whitehead said. “It kept drawing me back. It’s just so peaceful here. I love coming here.”
She added, “The people are friendly and helpful, and we are just a community together. We work together, pray together and have fun together.”
Register staffer Rachel Zamarron
traveled to New Zealand and Australia
earlier this year as part of a
special EWTN project.
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