Located at 6380 Main Street in Williamsville, N.Y., the Infant of Prague Shrine is open 24 hours, seven days a week.
A blessed space for solitude
In all areas of his life, St. Francis of Assisi desired to imitate the life of Christ. And like Christ, Francis spent time in solitude with God whenever he could.
To this end, Francis established nearly two dozen hermitages during his life. These houses of prayer were built just outside of towns, where the friars could be far enough away from the hustle and bustle to meditate and pray, but close enough that they could walk to where the people were to serve and minister.
Similarly, amidst the hustle and bustle of Main Street in Williamsville, N.Y., the Infant of Prague Shrine created by the Sisters of St. Francis offers people a sacred place where they can find refuge from their hectic lives.
Situated in front of several doctors’ offices, the shrine offers visitors, including employees and patients who slip in and out a haven for peace. “It is stately, and it is like a blessing and protection for all those who work behind it,” explains Sister Barbara Ann Bogden, manager of the shrine.
Jayne Cretacci says she has been visiting the shrine to pray regularly for about 20 years. “God always answers in one way or another … it’s in God’s hands,” she says. “You always get blessings … it’s the power of prayer.”
Formerly, the shrine was part of the 58-acre campus which included the convent and administrative offices of the former Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Divine Child. The shrine was constructed in 1957 because of a promise made to Jesus by Mother Mary Dolorita Andolina, that if the sisters were able to purchase the property at 6300 Main Street in Williamsville, N.Y. for their new convent, she would have a shrine built in thanksgiving to the Infant of Prague.
In 2003, after the former Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Divine Child merged with the Sisters of St. Francis Third Order Regular of Buffalo (Williamsville Franciscans) and the sisters moved to St. Mary of the Angels Convent in Williamsville, the land was sold in parcels. During the sale, there was one stipulation: the shrine, conducted by the sisters, would remain intact.
Eighty-eight year old Al Reister, who maintains the shrine, says in his 45 years of service, he has met visitors from around the world. Some stop and pray, while others leave written prayers. “There must be something that helps them,” he says.
Just as Francis sought silent places to connect with God, the Infant of Prague Shrine is a source of comfort and solace for the thousands of people from near and far who visit it each year to pray and receive courage and consolation. “It takes them out of the mainstream of their day and they are grateful for it,” says Sister Barbara Ann, who receives many notes from visitors thanking her for the “place of peace.”