Wish fulfilled: Shrine built to honor Jesus and Mary

October, 2009 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, Community

By Mary Owen
Lillian Van Agtmael of Camas, Wash., left,; Angela Van Agtmael of Seattle; Jerry Etzel of Stayton and Evelyn Van Agtmael of Sublimity admire the craftsmanship of the shrine, with its variety of stained glass windows, statues and artifacts.
For more than two decades, Carrie Etzel-Durig kept her uncle’s secret: he had a desire to erect a shrine of “great quality” at St. Boniface Catholic Church that would last for generations.

A farmer all of his life, Vince Etzel lived across from and attended the Sublimity parish. Following his death in 2008, the devout 88-year-old bachelor’s wish started to become reality.

“In December 1979, he had a vision in which Jesus and Mary appeared to him in his home while he was saying the Rosary,” said Etzel-Durig. “It wasn’t something he shared with everyone.”

But he told Etzel-Durig all those years ago, begging her silence so that a shrine would be built after his death to honor those he envisioned, not himself. He also asked her to manage the construction of the shrine, now a reality on the St. Boniface grounds. A donation from his estate paid for construction and an endowment from his estate was left to the parish to provide for upkeep. Family members did not reveal those amounts.

The Sacred Heart Shrine was dedicated Sept. 13, with Bishop Kenneth Steiner speaking at the event.

“The message of the shrine is ‘loving hearts,’” said Etzel-Durig, a Wilsonville resident who made many trips to Sublimity during the shrine’s construction.

“It’s a place for people to pray, get guidance and help,” she said. “Many have made a pilgrimage to the shrine already. More are coming every day.”

Approval for the shrine was granted by the Archdiocese of Portland provided that Etzel-Durig work with a church committee during each stage of planning and construction. She was joined by the Rev. Irudayaraj Amalanathan of St. Boniface, Gary Gescher, Bill Welter, Joe Spenner, Jo Hallam and Terry Hendricks.

Etzel-Durig was also helped by a team of dedicated builders and artists. Dale Reid of Keizer helped her design it. Rijya White, an artist from Salem, designed and painted around each stained-glass window in the 15-by-15-foot shrine, complementing the nearby church and rectory.

The nine windows (one seen only from the outside) were designed, cut and painted by Pugin, Hardman and Powell, an English firm that specializes in stained glass.

“Neil Philips, the owner of the company, came out from England before the land was broken and made a second trip for the dedication,” Etzel-Durig said. “The windows were fabricated and installed by Classic Glass Studio in Fargo, N.D. They were the ones that led me to the designers in England.”

The windows feature the four Mysteries of the Rosary, the Holy Spirit descending dove, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Sacred Heart of Jesus, and two depicting harvest goods, honoring Etzel and other area farmers.

“The focal point in the center of the shrine is two beautiful statues of Mary and Jesus,” Etzel-Durig said. Each is 5-foot tall, made of white poly resin by Conrad Moroder Art Studio in northeastern Italy.

“Their hearts are custom-painted red to show the message of this shrine,” said Etzel-Durig.

Etzel had seen Mary and Jesus with two very big hearts on their chests, looking very much “alive,” he wrote after their appearance to him.

“Still to this day, over all these years, the appearance of all the details are so real in my mind,” he wrote.

“They kept me calm and guided me in my decisions through life,” he said.

Etzel-Durig wanted those who built the shrine to capture the essence of Etzel’s vision. She believes the teak cross, crafted by Portland artist Dave Sawyer, did just that.

“This cross is breathtaking,” Etzel-Durig said. “It will be lit to give it a transparent glow in the evenings.”
Etzel-Durig encourages visitors to come after dark to see the image that the shrine gives with timed lighting inside. A large clear window gives people a view of the inner building and two benches amidst peaceful landscaping make it a perfect place to feel the tranquility Etzel intended, she said.

“It really gives a peaceful feeling, and the windows give a total different view than during the day,” she said.
Other contributors to the project include: benches, Belson Outdoors of Illinois; brick work, Dick Riesterer Masonry; concrete ground work, Manning Concrete; landscaping, Fresh to You Produce, Stayton; electrical work, Dave Orr, Pioneer Electric, Stayton; Bible and Rosary, Al and Marcey Etzel family; holy cards and flower containers, Weddle Funeral Services.

“So many people helped along the way to complete the building of this beautiful shrine,” Etzel-Durig said.

“Thanks also to the Archdiocese of Portland and St. Boniface for allowing the structure to be built on the parish grounds. And a special thanks to Pete and Jeanine Etzel.”

“I’ve learned a lot,” said Etzel-Durig. “It has touched so many people. All the landscapers, everyone involved, all wanted to be a part of it. People feel so good when they are here. Very at peace, very relaxed.”

Vince Etzel was one of eight brothers and sisters. He is survived by Pete Etzel, who acted as trustee of his estate, and Louise Porter, now living at Marian Estates.

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