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Nestled on 30 acres in St. John, the Shrine of Christ’s Passion takes nearly 200,000 visitors annually on a walk chronicling the steps of Jesus’ last journey before being crucified. But the Shrine of Christ's Passion has grown beyond the Stations of the Cross with more sculptures and surrounding gardens each year.

The Shrine, located just off U.S. Hwy. 41 at Wicker Ave., opened in May 2008, eight years after ground was broken on the complex. The Shrine of Christ’s Passion was created by the Schilling family at the cost of about $10 million.

There are 43 bronze sculptures on the prayer walk, including three that were just added within the last weeks, said Paul Anderson, the facility’s general manager.

“The three new sculptures are of a Roman soldier with a whip in his hand, in three different poses,” Anderson says. “The first one he’s standing, then he’s bent over, and then bent over a little more, ready to go into the act of whipping.”

The Shrine includes landscaped gardens designed to represent those of the Holy Land. Guests walk through the Shrine and listen to audio narrated by CBS news anchor Bill Curtis, and see depictions of the last hours in the life of Christ, from the Last Supper to his glorious Ascension. The walk also features music composed specifically for the Shrine.

“This place was built to share and celebrate the Lord’s greatest sacrifice,” says Frank Schilling. “Our family is proud to have people visit and appreciate this place that has inspired so many people.”

Anderson said they continually add to the Shrine, and ground has been broken to create Mount Siani, which will be 50 feet tall and made from clay and rock. It will be placed on a separate path north of the prayer walk and will feature a bronze sculpture of Moses and the Ten Commandments.

The Shrine of Christ’s Passion is free and a non-profit organization not affiliated with any church, Anderson explains. It relies on donations and gift shop sales.

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Anderson says between 8,000 and 10,000 people visit the Shrine every Good Friday, with as many as 200,000 people visiting annually. Anderson says visitors have come from all over the world, including Europe, Japan, South America, the Philippines and Australia.

“Since there is no admission fee, there is no way of counting exactly,” he says. “But we work very closely with the South Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau and promote ourselves all over the country. We think within a few years, we could attract a half-million people a year. It‘s taken awhile to become known, but it has become a world-class destination.”

The Shrine of Christ’s Passion appeals to people of all religious denominations. They appreciate hearing the story, listening to the music and seeing the statues work together to bring the story to life.

“It tells the story so visually,” he says. “It makes a story that people have heard all of their lives really come to life. It really brings you in.”

Sidebar:

On Nov 7-9, the Shrine of Christ’s Passion will be holding its annual Christmas open house between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. The event will highlight the store’s Christmas products and refreshments will be served.

On Nov. 18, a member of the Fontinini nativity signing event, where a member of the world-renowned Fontinini family will be coming to the Shrine from Italy to sign nativity pieces. The event time has yet to be determined.

For more information on these or other upcoming events, call (219) 365-6010 or visit www.shrineofchristspassion.org.

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