Franciscan Sisters Pilgrimage to St. Anne Shrine Plain, Wisconsin

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

July 23, 2023

In anticipation of the Feast of St. Anne on July 26, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity pilgrimaged to St. Anne Shrine, Plain, Wisconsin. St. Luke Church Pastor Fr. Luke Syse and parochial vicar Fr. Kumud Nayak presided at the morning liturgy in the beautiful stone edifice mother church to the shrine. Focus Missionary Adriane Limmex, now serving with our own Sisters at St. Albert the Great Parish on the campus of Michigan Tech, was also present for the Eucharistic liturgy.

After Mass, Sister Kathleen Murphy, Sister Mary Ann Spanjers and Sister Julie Ann Sheahan followed the newly-marked signage to St. Anne’s Shrine atop Holy Hill or Council Bluff, historically known as a Native American meeting place. It was in the 1860’s that Catholic German immigrants arrived from Bavaria to live in this area.

History of St. Anne Shrine

On July 26, 1923, Father Charles Surges, then pastor of St. Luke Church, decided to build a shrine dedicated to St. Anne in thanksgiving and as a petition against disasters. A May 1918 tornado which killed 8 people, including leveling the rectory and church and contributed to the death of the parish priest, Rev. George Pesch, most likely inspired the need for this place of prayer. In much the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, the building project brought people working together and healing from the cyclone began. At first a simple cross placed in a clearing with flowers and birch sticks surrounding it became a space to come and pray for special intentions.

Next, using picks and shovels, parish volunteers broke through solid masses of stone on the hillside. Women gathered unusually-shaped fossil stones from the neighboring fields. Others carried the volcanic fieldstone up the hill and hauled sand to create a foundation. Father Surges procured a stone from the House of Joachim and Anne while on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and also a relic of St. Anne and the true cross from the Sepulchre of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These, too, were added to this prayer spot, along with stained glass windows from Treves Germany and others donated from the Bishop of La Crosse. Stations were later donated from the Carmelites of Holy Hill. Eventually in 1929, a Lourdes Grotto was added on a side path on the bluff.


Adapted Prayer to St. Anne Found in the Shrine

Glorious St. Anne, filled with compassion for all those who invoke you and with love for all who suffer heavily laden with the weight of my troubles, I surrender myself at your feet and humbly beg of you to take this prayer request which I recommend to the Blessed Virgin Mary and lay it before the throne of Jesus, so that He may bring it to a happy end.

Cease not to intercede for me until my request is granted. Above all obtain for me the grace of one day beholding my God face to face with you and Mary and all the Saints praising Him for all eternity. Amen.

Article Comments:

Sister Mary Ann Spanjers 07/23/2023 @ 6:12 pm

It was a blessing to be with the parishioners and priests of St Luke’s a their early morning Mass! The beauty of the rural hills, fields and forests enhanced the experience of praying at the lovely, simple Shrine of St Anne! The faith of the community is evident from the history of the years of devotion and care for this Shrine. I hope to have another opportunity to visit this prayerful Shrine!


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