Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Frequently asked Questions (FAQs) About Marytown

What is Marytown?

Marytown – the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe, is a pilgrimage site and sacred space in the Franciscan tradition. It has been described as one of the most “beautiful pilgrimage sites in the nation.” Marytown is located in Libertyville, IL in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Marytown is called the “Third city of the Immaculate” (after Niepokalanow, Poland and Nagasaki, Japan) and is a ministry of the Conventual Franciscans Friars of St. Bonaventure Province (www.franciscancommunity.com). Marytown includes a Franciscan Friary (Our Lady of Fatima Friary), a contemporary Retreat and Conference Center with dining facilities, a publishing house – Marytown Press, Marytown Catholic Books and Gifts, beautiful and historic Chapels for liturgical life, and numerous outdoor shrines and rosary gardens.

The Conventual Franciscan Friars of Marytown endeavor to carry out the call of our father St. Francis to “heal wounds, unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.” We are deeply committed to the Holy Father’s call for the New Evangelization. We believe the fullness of Marytown’s ministries and the charism of St. Francis and St. Maximilian are rightly suited to this important cause to strengthen the faithful, to reach out to those that have fallen away from the faith, and to proclaim the Gospel to those who are “seekers” or have no contextual faith experience. In the spirit of Franciscan hospitality, the public is invited and encouraged to participate in all of Marytown’s devotional and liturgical events.

What is the tie-in to St. Maximilian Kolbe?

Marytown is the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe as decreed by the U.S. Catholic Bishops. The National Shrine is a place of pilgrimage for the faithful and is dedicated to promoting the witness and life of St. Maximilian, a Conventual Franciscan friar and priest, martyred at Auschwitz. Blessed John Paul II referred to Maximilian Kolbe as “the patron Saint of our difficult [20th] century.” The National Shrine dedicated to the Saint includes the Shrine Chapel, an educational Holocaust exhibit, and the relics of St. Maximilian. In addition, Marytown serves as the National Headquarters of the Militia of the Immaculata (MI).

What is the MI?

Marytown is the Center of the Militia Immaculata (MI), a global evangelization movement founded by St. Maximilian in 1917 and canonically established as a Primary Union by the Holy See (Vatican). Marytown is the spiritual home for nearly 80,000 MI members throughout the United States and Canada. Members of the MI are “totally consecrated” to the Blessed Virgin Mary. As Maximilian taught, “Mary is the most perfect and most holy work of God, for as St. Bonaventure said, ‘God can create a greater and more perfect world, but He cannot exalt a creature to higher dignity that that to which he exalted Mary.’” As the Son of God entrusted himself to the womb of Mary to come into the world, so we imitate Jesus and entrust ourselves to the Immaculate Virgin Mary on our journey, for personal sanctification and the conversion of the world to Jesus Christ. St. Maximilian spoke about consecration this way – “Through Mary one goes to Jesus and it is precisely this path that is most beautiful, gracious and certain. Entrusting oneself to the heart of such a Mother, one comes to know the heart of her Son.”

The MI apostolate at Marytown includes communications ministries, MI Youth, Prison Outreach and international diplomatic ministries. We are also the spiritual home and workplace of the Daughters of the Immaculata, the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS), and the Kolbe Corps volunteer programs. For more information on the MI, please visit our sister-site www.consecration.com.

What about the Chapels?

At the very heart of Marytown is Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, considered one of the most beautiful pilgrimage sites in the United States. Marytown’s Chapel foundation dates to the International Eucharistic Congress of 1926. George Cardinal Mundelein of Chicago felt a permanent sanctuary of adoration should be established to commemorate the congress and to pray for seminarians. Founded by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, the main Chapel (Adoration Chapel) was designed after the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, in Rome. Adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament has been going on day and night on these grounds since 1928. The Chapel is adorned with stained glass, statues, and mosaic bespeaking of the rich Catholic tradition.

In 1979, the Conventual Franciscans acquired the Chapel and grounds from the Sisters and added the life and spirit of St. Francis and St. Maximilian to the Chapel’s interior artistry. One example is the splendid San Damiano crucifix which replicates the original in Assisi, Italy, as well as mosaics dedicated to St. Francis, Franciscan saints and especially the life of St. Maximilian.

The Chapel is open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for Eucharistic Adoration and prayer. In addition to adoration, we offer twice daily masses and four times daily we celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours with the public. Marytown serves the spiritual needs of a broad community of people – locally and nationally – through our Adoration ministry, daily masses, frequent confession schedule, spiritual direction and spiritual retreats. (The Chapel schedule is available on this website and the 24 hour “Chapel cam” can be viewed here or at www.Justintv.com)

What is a Franciscan Friar?

The Conventual Franciscans are one of the three branches of the First Order of St. Francis. In 1209, St. Francis of Assisi received formal approval for his gospel way of life from Pope Innocent III. He called his community the “Friars Minor,” (meaning Lesser Brothers). St. Francis wanted his followers to imitate the humility of Christ and to minister to the least, the neglected and the forgotten in society.

With over five thousand followers in his lifetime, St. Francis soon inspired the energetic and talented friars toward a broader task of helping to transform every level of society. No positive initiative was outside the community’s gospel mandate – as long as the good work did not “extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and devotion.” The friars quickly became preachers and educators, administrators of royal charities, and advocates of social justice. They spread the faith far and wide as missionaries, and they often spilled their blood as martyrs.

Although the friars had been missionaries in the East since the 13th century, by the late 15th century it was time to begin evangelizing the newly discovered people of the West. Christopher Columbus, a Secular Franciscan, sought the help and advocacy of the Conventual Franciscans at Seville when he tried to convince the King and Queen to support his expedition to the New World. After several failed attempts, finally Columbus was granted his petition through the intercession of Friar Juan Perez. Friar Juan was the financial advisor to King Ferdinand and the regular confessor of Queen Isabella. And, as an astronomer, Friar Juan Perez accompanied Columbus on his second voyage in 1493, and is credited with celebrating the first Mass in the New World.

The word “Conventual” comes from the Latin convenire, which means “to come together.” The Conventual Franciscans live together in community at places referred to as “convents” or friaries. The Order of Friars Minor Conventual (OFM Conv.) is spread throughout the world, and includes about 4500 priests and brothers who are all commonly called Friars. Conventual Franciscans wear a black or gray habit with a simple three-knotted cord representing the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

There are five provinces in North America, (including St. Bonaventure Province of which Marytown is a ministry) and a jurisdiction in Great Britain, Ireland and Australia. The spiritual center of the Order is in Assisi, Italy, where the Conventual Franciscan Friars care for the Basilica of St. Francis, which includes the saint’s tomb.

Today, the Conventual Franciscans from North America continue their missionary work in Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, El Salvador, England, Ghana, Honduras, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, and Zambia. American Conventual friars also assist the international Order with our ministry as confessors in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and as pilgrim leaders in Assisi.

The Friars encourage you to learn more about the Conventual Franciscans by visiting www.franciscancommunity.com.