Archbishop designates St. Martin of Tours a shrine

Father Paul Beach, rector of the Shrine of St. Martin of Tours, prayed during a noon Mass at the shrine May 22. Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre designated St. Martin of Tours Church as a diocesan shrine on May 18. (Record Photos by Ruby Thomas)


On May 18, Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre designated St. Martin of Tours Church, 639 S. Shelby St., a diocesan shrine — The Shrine of St. Martin of Tours.

“This honor is a recognition of what the parish has been for the past 40 years,” said Father Paul Beach, St. Martin’s pastor, whose new title is rector.

St. Martin, located just east of downtown Louisville, has long had the “atmosphere of a shrine,” he said, noting a renaissance at the parish that began in the 1970s.

For close to three decades now, the Gothic-style church has remained open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The spire is lit at night, and it draws people in, even in the pre-dawn hours, he noted.

With the University of Louisville Hospital Trauma Center nearby, people come to “find a place of quiet, peacefulness and prayer at a time of tragedy,” said Father Beach.

Maria Espinoza, a member of the Shrine of St. Martin of Tours, prayed during noon Mass. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Archbishop Fabre has decided that St. Martin will continue to care fully for its members through the sacraments and programs, such as religious education and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. So nothing will change for parishioners, Father Beach noted.

But as a shrine, St. Martin will also offer “special opportunities” to help individuals grow in faith, including:
• Pilgrimages to the campus.
• A partial indulgence that will be granted to those who visit and pray at the shrine on certain feast days: St. Martin, observed Nov. 11; St. Bonosa, the second Sunday of June; St. Magnus, the second Sunday in August. Sts. Magnus and Bonosa were third-century martyrs whose relics — their skeletal remains — are on display at St. Martin.

The partial indulgence is an “opportunity to focus on prayer as it leads to conversion of heart,” said Father Beach. “The church offers us special grace through acts of penance and prayer.”

The skeletal relics of St. Magnus, a third-century martyr, are encased in glass and on display at the Shrine of St. Martin of Tours. Catholics visit the shrine and pray during the celebration of his feast day, the second Sunday of August, will be granted a partial indulgence. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

St. Martin’s designation as a shrine will also be distinguished by an expectation that it serve the whole archdiocese rather than a particular neighborhood.
Father Beach said St. Martin’s members, who come from throughout Jefferson County and beyond, are excited about the designation.

“They see it as an honor, a distinction. They have a great deal of pride in the church,” he said.

He believes parishioners are drawn to the church by the very things St. Martin’s pastors have focused on over the years — the music, the adoration chapel and outreach to the poor through the Schuhmann Center, which serves the homeless, and the Golden Arrow Center, which serves mothers and children.

The honor of being named a shrine may be the culmination of work that started at the parish as far back as the 1970s, he said.

In the ‘70s St. Martin experienced a “renaissance” under the leadership of Father Vernon Robertson.

The skeletal relics of St. Bonosa, a third-century martyr, are encased in glass and on display at the Shrine of St. Martin of Tours. Catholics who visit the shrine and pray during the celebration of her feast day, the second Sunday of June, will be granted a partial indulgence. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

St. Martin was established in 1853 as a parish for German immigrants. In the 1950s, families started moving to the suburbs, causing a decline in membership and bringing it to the brink of closure by the late 1970s, he said.

“Father Robertson was creative and thought outside the box,” said Father Beach. His efforts, which included a choir and a popular restaurant in the parish’s rectory, known as the “Afro-German Tea Room,” helped the parish regain its footing, he said.

At that time, the parish started offering daily eucharistic adoration, Benediction, organ concerts and a weekly Latin Mass that drew people from around the city and beyond.

St. Martin’s membership has grown steadily over the years, said Father Beach. There are currently more than 1,800 members. He noted that the community is young and that he frequently celebrates baptisms for infants.

St. Martin offers Mass daily at noon, on Saturday evenings and three Masses on Sundays. St. Martin’s designation as a diocesan shrine will allow it to continue offering Mass in the Extraordinary Form, a liturgy celebrated in Latin, every Sunday at noon.

The Two Hearts Devotion is celebrated monthly and the chapel is open for eucharistic adoration 24 hours a day, seven days per week.

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre designated St. Martin of Tours Church, above, as a diocesan shrine on May 18. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)
Ruby Thomas
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Ruby Thomas
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