MARIA STEIN — The Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics is holding a Heritage Day Celebration Sept. 25.
“It’s just a beautiful place to come have some fun and learn a little history while you’re at it,” said Amy Kempfer Petsch, marketing coordinator of the Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics. “It does mark 170 years since the sisters began their perpetual adoration.”
Catholics in Europe rose up to fill a need in America, as the German-speaking Catholics who were settling the Mercer County area did not have regular priests to offer counsel or churches in which to worship. Bishop Purcell of Cincinnati went to German-speaking countries in Europe to persuade some to help, and Father Francis de Sales Brunner came back with him in 1843 — bringing priests and brothers as well as many of the relics that he was collecting. In 1844, three Sisters of the Precious Blood made the journey and brought the remainder of Brunner’s relics to the settlement in New Riegel.
Convents were made in Mercer, Auglaize, Seneca and Putnam counties as well as Jay County, Indiana.
The cornerstone for the convent Maria Stein (Mary of the Rock) was laid Nov. 16, 1845. Six sisters came from the convent in New Riegel to Maria Stein in 1846. A wooden convent was made in 1901 and encased in locally made brick.
“At one point they grew to over 800 sisters,” Kempfer Petsch said. “Their numbers have dwindled.”
This location was the Motherhouse of the Sisters of the Precious Blood until the sisters were moved to Dayton in 1923 to be nearer education opportunities.
“This place, this property, is just very rich in history,” Kempfer Petsch said. “It’s very much a part of the early settlement of west central Ohio. The Sisters of the Precious Blood coming over here and settling the land and living and working here, it was just a big part of the history of the area.”
Still today, Sisters of the Precious Blood attend to the site’s needs. A sister will give a talk during the festival about the relics that are housed there and why. There are more than 1,200 relics at the site, including a piece of the true cross (a sliver of the cross that Jesus carried to his crucifixion) and a lock of hair from the recently sainted Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Relics are things related to deceased saints. The site’s website explains a saint a someone who has “lived a life of virtue” and therefore is an example for how we should live. A saint also intercedes in heaven for those still living, and the relic is considered holy and worthy of veneration, or showing high respect.
“Literally some of them are the remains of deceased people,” Kempfer Petsch said, “a surviving memorial of something past.”
This is the second-largest collection of relics in the nation, she said. Visitors are welcome to use the reference materials offered at the site to look up relics of particular saints.
“And odds are, we probably (have one),” she said.
The festival will be to honor the site’s past and raise funds for it.
“We are operated 100 percent off of donations,” she said.
The festival will feature educational talks in addition to family activities. To enter the pie contest, call Kempfer Petsch at 419-925-4493. The top three places will earn gift certificates to the gift shop, and any kind of pie is welcome. Pies need to be dropped off by 12:30 p.m. that day. Also, booths will have food available for festival goers.
“It’s going to be a fun family day for not very much money,” she said.
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