A new national sanctuary has been erected in the United States: Our Lady of La Leche in St. Augustine, Florida. It is the oldest church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin in the country.
Our Lady of La Leche was built on what was then the Nombre de Dios mission, founded in 1587 by Franciscan missionaries at St. Augustine on the Atlantic coast. Mass was celebrated there for the first time in 1565, before the erection of the mission and the sanctuary.
It was in 1609 that a place of worship was built and placed under the protection of Mary nursing the infant Jesus. According to the diocese of St. Augustine, it is the oldest American Marian shrine still standing.
The church, dedicated to the “Mother of God who is nursing,” is a place of pilgrimage frequented by women who hope for the arrival of a child or who fear for their pregnancy or childbirth.
On October 11, 2019, on the feast of the Maternity of the Virgin, Bishop Felipe Estevez, Bishop of St. Augustine, announced the decision of the United States Bishops’ Conference to establish the place of worship as a national shrine. “When we look at the image of Our Lady of La Leche, in pure beauty, we see the whole mystery of the Incarnation,” said the prelate.
The statue of the Virgin will be solemnly crowned on October 11, 2020, as part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the erection of the diocese of St. Augustine.