Upper Valley’s La Salette Shrine celebrates its final mass

Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 3:48 PM EDT
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ENFIELD, N.H. (WCAX) - A well-known Catholic shrine in the Upper Valley held its final mass on Tuesday. Now, a different religious organization has new plans for the property.

It was a historic day at the La Salette Shrine in Enfield, New Hampshire. After decades of daily masses, the last service here has come to an end.

The faithful packed the final mass, praying one last time in a church pilgrims have been coming to since 1927.

“We are all connected, nobody is separated. We are all part of a big family, the family of God,” said Father John Sullivan, the director of the shrine.

The shrine is named in honor of La Salette, France, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared in the mid-1800s. The shrine is likely best known in the Upper Valley for its annual holiday lights display.

“I am grateful for Vermont and New Hampshire and all the pilgrims that have come over the years,” Father Sullivan said.

Francine Lozeau of Enfield has been coming here to worship for 50 years.

“It’s really, really difficult,” Lozeau said.

Declining numbers and expensive upkeep of the multiple buildings on the 28-acre property are the reasons La Salette is closing.

“This has been my home and the priests are wonderful, the brothers are great. The whole community is so special,” Lozeau said.

“This whole thing is sort of bittersweet,” said Caroline Smith of the Enfield Shaker Museum.

The museum, located across the road and a stone’s throw from Lake Mascoma, has announced plans to buy the property. The museum celebrates the Shaker community, a different religious sect that settled here in the late 1700s. The Shakers originally owned the land prior to it becoming a Shrine.

“You know they are right across from the lake and it is very desirable property and we really wanted to preserve the open space and the feeling that has been here all these years,” Smith said.

A capital campaign is underway to raise $3 million which will cover the purchase price of the property and intended renovations. The museum hopes to close on this property by the end of the month.