Bishop O'Connell is joined by numerous Vincentian priests during the celebration of Mass at the Shrine in 2019. Craig Pittelli photo
Bishop O'Connell is joined by numerous Vincentian priests during the celebration of Mass at the Shrine in 2019. Craig Pittelli photo
The Miraculous Medal Shrine, a Marian devotional destination and ministry of the Vincentians of the Eastern Province in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, has been elevated by the Vatican to Minor Basilica status. This designation is shared by only one other church in the City of Philadelphia, the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, and 91 others across the United States. The Shrine, along with the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception that houses it, are now known as The Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

The new designation followed an application process of multiple years and culminated in a decree issued by Pope Francis. The Shrine is now promoted as an exemplary site of liturgical and pastoral activity within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Minor Basilicas are given prominence among other churches and shrines, receive certain honorifics and are tasked with special responsibilities.

As a Vincentian priest, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., said that he was “delighted to see the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal in Germantown [Philadelphia] raised to the dignity of Minor Basilica!

“This is no small or insignificant honor given by the Church but, rather, a recognition of the devotion and prayer of hundreds of thousands of the faithful who have come to the Shrine over the last century to seek the intercession of the Blessed Mother,” Bishop O’Connell said.

“The ‘Miraculous Medal Novena,’ recited in many parishes of the Diocese of Trenton was first composed by Vincentians there. Along with many Vincentian priests and brothers over the years, I completed my novitiate on the Shrine property there so this recognition is very special and meaningful to me. May all the faithful who continue to pray at Mary’s Shrine be ‘blessed by her loving protection and preserved in the grace of her Son,” Bishop O’Connell said.

Vincentian Father Timothy V. Lyons, now rector of the Basilica Shrine, said, “It is an esteemed honor to be recognized by the Vatican as a Minor Basilica. We are both overjoyed and humbled by this recognition. This historic proclamation marks the next chapter in the Shrine’s history and recognizes the significant role it has played in the Catholic Church., the Philadelphia Archdiocese and the Shrine community.”

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About a Minor Basilica

The central functions of a basilica are rooted in the sacramental life of the Church as a site of pilgrimage, an historical landmark and a house of significant sacred art. The basilica title gives the Shrine certain privileges and responsibilities, principally the celebration of the feast of the Chair of St. Peter; the solemnity of the Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, and the anniversary of the pope’s election into pastoral ministry. Additionally, since the designation denotes a special bond of communion with the residing pope, the Basilica Shrine can remove all temporal consequences of sin to individuals, which remain even after the person’s sin has been forgiven, what is known as a plenary indulgence.

As a basilica, the Basilica Shrine will be outfitted with an “umbrellino,” a canopy of yellow and red silk; and together with a “tintinnabulum,” a bell mounted on a pole used for papal visits, forms the Papal Insignia. The Basilica Shrine is also granted the privilege of displaying Vatican City’s coat of arms on its façade and the crossed keys of St. Peter on all its furnishings and liturgical appointments.

Background on the Congregation of the Mission

As a ministry of the Congregation of the Mission priests and brothers – commonly known as the Vincentians – the Basilica Shrine has held historical significance in the Philadelphia area, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Eastern United States for more than 140 years.

The Vincentians, founded by St. Vincent de Paul in 1625, arrived in Philadelphia in 1841, where they established a seminary in the city’s Germantown section, including construction of a chapel for use by the priests and seminarians. At the request of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Vincentians modified their plans for the chapel and in 1878 opened its doors for liturgical celebrations and pastoral assistance for the poor, working-class and largely immigrant residents of the surrounding neighborhood, who at the time did not have a parish church.

When they initially opened the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception as a parish church, it predominantly served Irish immigrants. A decade later, the Vincentians established a second parish, Holy Rosary, serving Italian immigrants. They also helped establish the first Catholic church in Germantown, St. Vincent de Paul, and later built St. Catherine of Siena Parish, to serve the needs of the city’s African-American community.

In 1927, under the leadership of Vincentian Father Joseph A. Skelly, the Vincentians commissioned an expansion of the chapel for the creation of a shrine to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, a title of the Blessed Mother originating with her apparitions to St. Catherine Laboure at the Rue du Bac Chapel in Paris in 1830.

In 1930, Father Skelly embellished the Perpetual Novena of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, a devotion that has been prayed at the Shrine every Monday since then and continues every Monday at the Basilica Shrine.

During their presence in Philadelphia, the Vincentians have served as faculty members at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood, Pa., and as pastors in parishes throughout the Archdiocese as well as other dioceses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Visitors come to the Basilica Shrine daily for Mass, solemn prayer and meditation and pilgrimage. The Basilica Shrine is also home to the Perpetual Novena, a prayer of devotion to Our Lady recited in-person and livestreamed on Facebook and Instagram every Monday.

To learn more about the Basilica Shrine, visit