Thousands of people made the trip to the National Shrine of St. Thérèse in Darien Sept. 17 through Oct. 1 to venerate the relics of St. Thérèse of Lisieux and her parents, Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin. Planning for this visit of the relics began in 2019, said Carmelite Father Thomas Schrader, the shrine’s director. The Carmelites, who operate the shrine, last hosted St. Thérèse’s relics in the Chicago area in 1999. Other first- and second-class relics of the saint usually are on display at the shrine, but the relics that visited this fall are contained in one of four official reliquaries from the Sanctuary of St. Thérèse of Lisieux in France. It was also the first time the relics of Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin visited the United States. “It’s kind of been a dream,” said Schrader. “We consider this her home.” The original National Shrine to St. Thérèse began at St. Cyril’s Church in Chicago in 1923, as devotion to her was growing. At the same time, Carmelite Father Albert Dolan established the Society of the Little Flower, which encourages devotion to her and helped raise funds for her canonization in 1925. The shrine held novenas to St. Thérèse every Tuesday. Because of her great popularity, the shrine moved to the larger St. Clara’s Church in the Woodlawn neighborhood. During that time, the Carmelites in Lisieux sent relics and personal items of St. Thérèse to the shrine in gratitude for its support. In 1975, fire destroyed St. Clara’s Church and the shrine items moved to the Aylesford Carmelite Priory in Darien, which originally was part of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Eventually, a new shrine was built on the grounds and included a museum. The museum has items from the saint’s room — her bed, desk, window and stools — photos taken by her sister and other personal items. There is also a painting of Thérèse done by her biological sister Céline, who was also a Carmelite. A gift from the Margie and Robert E. Petersen Foundation allowed construction of a new shrine chapel three times the size of the former chapel. The new chapel was dedicated in 2018. The shrine has landscaped grounds and a walk with prayer stations dedicated to Carmelite saints, including Sts. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. Mass is offered daily in the chapel. There is also a gift shop and retreat center. Visitors come daily to express their devotion to St. Thérèse, shrine officials said. On Sept. 21, one of those visitors was Holy Name Cathedral parishioner Maria Pura. “We are very strong devotees of St. Thérèse,” she said. She asked the saint and the Lord to heal her from metastatic cancer, she said. “Because of my faith in the Lord and because of my faith in our saints, I came here because I want to ask her to heal me,” Pura said. “I love asking for prayers for others and then for me.” Jennifer Farber, ministry director at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glenview, brought a group of parishioners to the shrine on Sept. 23 to venerate the relics. The parish usually organizes a pilgrimage to the shrine at least once a year. “We’ve been going every single year around her feast day, which is Oct. 1,” Farber said. “It’s an absolute treasure in our own backyard.” The parishioners from Our Lady of Perpetual Help bring their own reflection guide and often bring a packed breakfast or lunch to eat while sitting out on the shrine’s grounds. “I think what’s really amazing about the place is it’s a very unique-looking shrine. It’s absolutely pristine,” Farber said. “It’s doesn’t have that old-school Chicago look, but it does have beautiful stained-glass windows.” Black-and-white photos in the museum that St. Thérèse’s sister Céline took of her while she was in the convent never fail to captivate, Farber added. “You really can see her personality and spirituality come through in those images,” she said. “Her eyes are piercing and sometimes she is very joyful and sometimes you can tell she’s suffering a little bit.” The personal artifacts are wonderful to see and help visitors better understand St. Thérèse’s spirituality. “We always think there are so many rules about our faith,” Farber said. “Really Thérèse brings it down to the simple fact that God just wants to see us trying, to love others, to be merciful and to be forgiving. And that’s why she’s a doctor of the church, because she really figured out how to be close with God and that he just loves her as this little child who is trying to be his good little daughter.” The shrine welcomes individual pilgrims or groups. To learn more, visit littleflower.org/national-shrine-and-museum-of-st-therese.