When parishes were forced to close because of COVID-19, Pam Schillaci, a parishioner at St. Beatrice in Schiller Park, knew of a place she could go to find peace like she does in church — the outdoor shrines at Marytown in Libertyville. “I love Marytown,” said Schillaci. “There is just something about the garden that I love. It’s so peaceful. You just feel like it’s a piece of heaven.” She has been visiting Marytown twice a week for at least eight years, stopping by its 24-hour adoration chapel. During the pandemic, she’s been visiting about four times a week, praying the rosary in the rosary garden. She has also started cleaning the moss from some of the statues after calling the friars to let them know. “Today I was cleaning in the rosary section, the plaster plaques of the mysteries,” Schillaci said. After the rosary garden, she also makes stops at shrines to saints like Padre Pio and St. Jude. “I feel like they are hearing our prayers,” she said. “I feel like through prayer we’re going to come out at the end of this and we’re all going to be better people. That’s my prayer, that this has drawn us closer to prayer, closer to Christ.” Conventual Franciscan Father Benedict La Volpe, rector and guardian of Marytown, says he and the other friars have seen people praying outside ever since the state issued its stay-at-home order, more so as the weather became nicer. They have the stations of the cross, the 20 mysteries of the rosary and shrines to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, the crucified Lord, St. Francis, St. Anthony, Padre Pio and the Infant of Prague. “People are always well-behaved and masks are on because they know that this is our home. It’s not a parish church. It’s the friars’ home.” People frequently can be found kneeling in front of the doors to the main church. La Volpe says that’s because they know that 24-hour adoration has continued during the shutdown and the friars are inside praying. He has even seen people peeking in through a little slit where the lock is on the main door while the friars are celebrating Mass. “It was the most heartwarming thing to notice, but it sort of broke our heart a bit too,” La Volpe said. “The people so love to see the Eucharist and they knew that if they just look through that little slit they can see Father elevate the Eucharist during Mass.” In front of the main chapel they have a large image of the Divine Mercy. La Volpe said every day at 3 p.m., the traditional time to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet, there will be families out there praying the chaplet. “During May, parents also came with their children to do their own spontaneous May crowning at Our Lady of Fatima,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of things going on outside.” The outdoor Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines has also had many people coming by to pray since the pandemic started, said Father Esequiel Sanchez, shrine rector. They encourage visitors to maintain social distancing and stay safe by wearing masks and washing their hands. The shrine is also disinfecting common surfaces. “The beautiful part is that we have tons and tons of flowers here,” said Sanchez of people leaving flowers or candles at the shrine — people who have lost jobs during this time, who are afraid about health problems or have recovered from COVID-19. “The Blessed Mother is very much the one doing the calling in their lives. We’re honored to be here to serve them.” And the priests at the shrine are outside with them. “We do meet people and issue blessings. We don’t touch people or anything like that,” Sanchez said. “Believe me, people are in need of pastoral care.” Under the archdiocese’s reopening plans, the shrine has started a holy hour daily at 6 p.m. in the outdoor plaza. “When we put the Blessed Sacrament out, we’re also hearing confessions. We’re doing as much as we can. Whatever we can do, we will do,” Sanchez said. Our Lady of Guadalupe and devotion to her is particularly timely during COVID-19, he said, because of the many conversions and healings through her intercession right after the apparition to St. Juan Diego in 1531. “Because what was killing most Native Americans wasn’t necessarily only war. It was the infirmities the Europeans brought in. They were getting chicken pox, they were getting the measles, they were getting all of these things and they had no defenses against them, so they were getting wiped out,” he said. “They had their own pandemic.” They approached Our Lady for help. “She’s lived up to her promise — I’ll give everyone all my love, my help and my protection. So the community has come here remembering that she is a source of real support.” In addition to Marytown in Libertyville and the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, other outdoor gardens and shrines where people can pray include: Archdiocese of Chicago’s Healing Garden, located just west of Holy Family Church, 1080 W. Roosevelt Road. The Healing Garden was created in 2011 by a committee of survivors of abuse by clergy, archdiocesan priests and staff from the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth. The garden is intended to be a place that invites reconciliation, hope and healing, not only for survivors and their families, but also for the larger Catholic Church. Slovenian Catholic Mission, 14246 Main St., Lemont. The mission sits on 130 acres of land that includes the monastery and church, a retreat center, a picnic area, outdoor stations of the cross, a Lourdes grotto and a rosary valley. The property is open daily and the outdoor stations of the cross, grotto and rosary valley offer a peaceful place to pray and meditate. Hill of the Crosses replica at Lithuanian World Center, 14911 127th St., Lemont. This small shrine is a replica of the famous one in Lithuania and features dozens of handmade crosses and shrines dedicated to loved ones in the community. The hill, which in the summer has hundreds of flowers, also has benches for people to sit and enjoy the quiet.