Bishop Felipe Estévez of St. Augustine announced Friday that the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche has been elevated as a National Shrine by the US bishops' conference.
The shrine is located at the Nombre de Dios mission in St. Augustine, founded in 1587. According to the Diocese of St. Augustine, it is America's oldest Marian shrine.
It is dedicated to the nursing Mother of God, and is a site of pilgrimage particularly for those hoping to become pregnant or to have a safe delivery.
Bishop Estévez made the announcement at an Oct. 11 Mass for the feast of Our Lady of La Leche.
“Mary recognizes the living God who closes the door to the mighty of this world and raises up the little ones, the poor in spirit, who are blessed by God,” he said. “She praises God in his great mercy towards those who obey him and open their hearts to him.”
“When we look at the image of Our Lady of La Leche, in pure beauty, we see the whole mystery of Incarnation,” he reflected. “If Mary has a message for us today, I find it in the only words that appear in the Gospel of St. John, attributed to her: 'Do what He tells you.'”
Some 200 people attended the Mass, including benefactors, members of the Confraternity of Our Lady of La Leche, and Knights and Dames of Malta.
The first Mass at the site of the Nombre de Dios mission was said in 1565, and the mission itself was founded 22 years later by Franciscans. A chapel dedicated to Our Lady of La Leche was established on the grounds of the mission in 1609.
The statue of Our Lady of La Leche will be crowned Oct. 11, 2020, as part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the erection of the Diocese of St. Augustine.