St. Alphonsus Parish in Peru has been blest with an exceptional statue of St. Francis of Assisi.
Our generous donor also gifted funds to build a replica of the St. Mary of the Angels Portiuncula. The construction of our Portiuncula began from a simple plan to provide a dignified shelter to protect the St. Francis outside. Divine Providence seemed to lead us from there to realize a larger vision than we initially imagined, and a spark from St. Francis entered into the life of this project and all those who helped bring it about.
We also have been blest with contributions of labor, equipment, materials, and special skills, which include engineering, drawings, professional landscaping, masonry, and an exceptionally accomplished and artistic stone mason.
Portiuncula is an Italian word meaning “Small Portion”. We have found references pointing to this humble “little church” located on a “small portion of land” which 18 year old Francis found surrounded by a woods of Oak, and lying in a state of total abandonment.
He restored it with his own hands and made it a focus of his life and the life of the Franciscan brotherhood.
The saint loved this place more than any other in all the world. It knew the humble beginnings of Francis’ spiritual awakening; here he grew in virtue; here he happily reached his goals.
It was the place, at the hour of his death, that he entrusted to the friars as the place most dear to the Virgin Mary.
If from time to time Francis became upset and despondent, here he found peace and his spirit was refreshed.
He told his followers; “My little children, consider this place worthy of great honor, the house of God, and with all your heart, give praise to the Lord”.
Also, he emphasized: “This place is truly the holy of holies, and worthy of great honor. Blessed is its construction, more blessed still is its name”.
The shrine at our Prayer Garden at St. Alphonsus is approximately one third smaller than the Portiuncula in Assisi and features sandstone inside and out very similar to the original which was built about 1000 years ago.
This is a great addition to the existing St. John Neumann Prayer Center, Mary’s Grotto, and Rosary Walk.
The combination of St. Francis and St. John Neumann are a very “Good Fit”. In 1855, Bishop Neumann [fourth Bishop of Philadelphia], was instrumental in bringing the Franciscan Sisters to America. Even today there is a Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Community in New York. [see sosf.org]
Fr. Neumann, as a new Redemptorist Priest, had visited St. Alphonsus from July to November 1841. His signature is in the Parish Baptismal record book – having baptized three infants while he was in residence.
St. Francis lived about 600 years before St. John Neumann, but their spiritualities are very similar. Among other things, both were very true to the Gospels, with special attention to helping the less fortunate, with no regard to their own personal health and well being.
Since the Assisi chapel was dedicated to St. Mary of the Angels, we have commissioned a stained glass image of Mary which is imbedded into the inside stonework.
Note: The last two words - “the Angels” in Spanish translates: Los Angelos. Los Angelos California - one of the many Missions founded by the Franciscan Missionaries in centuries past – was named after the same Portiuncula chapel we have imitated here!
The focal point of the shrine is of St. Francis contemplating the cross of St. Damiano.
As you may realize, it is believed that the cross was painted by a Coptic Monk from Syria on very durable material many years before Francis was born. It hung in the apse of the San Damiano chapel near Assisi.
The young Francis was fascinated by the Cross and was searching for Spiritual light when the Lord spoke to him from the cross, telling him to “Repair my church, which you can see is falling down”
The Shrine was dedicated last August 2nd, the Feast of the “Pardon of Assisi”