Throughout the month of November, Catholics participate in a long-standing tradition of praying for those who have died. Beyond the commemoration of All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2, parishes encourage people to add names of those who have died into books of the dead and there are special Masses and novenas. At St. Odilo Parish in Berwyn, that tradition is year-round. Thanks to Cardinal George Mundelein in 1928, St. Odilo is home to the nation’s only shrine dedicated to the holy souls in purgatory. A side altar houses the shrine, where people can light candles and add names of their dead to a book from which their intentions will be remembered in shrine Masses. “This church has a 200-day indulgence attached to it, meaning that anybody who comes and pays a visit to St. Odilo Church, offers a little prayer for a particular soul in purgatory or several souls in purgatory or all the souls in purgatory, gains for them a 200-day indulgence [from time spent in purgatory],” said Father Bart Juncer, pastor of St. Odilo. “That’s been that way since the founding of this church.” The church is named after St. Odilo who was the abbot of a Benedictine Abbey in Cluny, France, in the late 900s. He had a devotion to the holy souls and, among Benedictine monasteries attached to his own, instituted the practice of praying for them the day after All Saints’ Day. “St. Odilo decreed that those requesting a Mass to be offered for the faithful departed should make an offering for the poor, thus linking almsgiving with fasting and prayer for the dead. From there the Nov. 2 custom of offering prayers, Masses, fasting and almsgiving for the souls in purgatory spread to other Benedictine monasteries,” Juncer said. The practice spread and eventually was adopted by the universal church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the understanding of purgatory as: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The church gives the name purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.” Scripture provides the basis for the church’s tradition of praying for the dead in the Old Testament, where Judas Maccabeus made atonement for the dead so they would be delivered from sin. “From the beginning, the church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The church also commends almsgiving, indulgences and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead,” the catechism states. The souls in purgatory are called holy souls because they’re eventually on their way to heaven, Juncer said. “It’s a place, a state of life where we are trying to polish off all the rough edges … and increase charity in our hearts so that when we are to see God we will be in a state of perfect charity. We’ll have purged ourselves of our vices, our sins, our faults and be holy as our Father in heaven is holy. It’s really a place of great charity and God’s love that it’s a final chance to be prepared to go back to heaven.” Juncer, who has long had a personal devotion to the holy souls, became pastor of St. Odilo July 1 and hopes to increase activities related to the shrine. The church is open for public visits daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.