HOOPPOLE, Ill. — A short trip down a narrow country road will take visitors to St. Mary of the Fields Church and Shrine, a peaceful retreat just three miles northwest of Hooppole.
The site is designated as a shrine by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria.
The Rev. Stephen Engelbrecht, pastor of St. Anthony’s Church, Atkinson, and Sacred Heart Church in Annawan, also serves St. Mary of the Fields Church. He said the site is open daily, “welcoming all who are looking for a quiet place to reflect.”
Holy hours are held from 2 until 3 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month from May to October, although this year the holy hours did not start until June due to restrictions in place from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The gift shop at St. Mary of the Fields is open before and after holy hours or by appointment.
- July 5 - Our Lady of Loreto.
- Aug. 2 – Our Lady of Guadalupe and will feature dancers.
- Sept. 6 – Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.
- Oct. 4 – Our Lady of Velankanni.
- Oct. 13 – Mass and Holy Hour - Our Lady of Fatima 103rd anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun.
The history of the church’s beginning stems from the growth of farmers in the mid-1800’s. As the crops grew, so did the population, and it was those same families who built the church in 1883 at a cost of $1,069.20.
Parish membership reached 80 families in the 1940’s, and then began to decline as did the rural population. But the dreams of those families remaining in the rural area continued to grow.
The original church bell is preserved in the entryway of the church.
History has it the idea grew to include a shrine at the entrance to the church, honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary, dedicated in 1997.
In addition to the original church bell, the shrine contains a statue of Mary holding baby Jesus, various works of art, a side altar and the 14 Stations of the Cross.
The people of St. Mary’s gave more than money, they volunteered approximately 1,500 hours digging the foundation, pouring cement, and building and painting a 28- by 40-foot addition to the church.
In 1992, a giant outdoor “rolle bolle rosary” was built next to the church. On the heart-shaped rosary, bolles are used for the Hail Mary beads, and bowling balls represent the Our Father beads. Surrounding the rosary are benches where visitors can rest as they pray and meditate.
The rolle bolles are unique, but their real value comes when they are used as a Rosary and in prayer, according to Steve Clementz, one of the caretakers of St. Mary of the Fields.
The shrine also features a grotto with a small meditative garden, a Mary's Garden with various plants of special titles, and six statues. The statues are Our Lady of Fatima, Sister Lucia, and Saint Francisco, Saint Jacinta and two lambs, in addition to benches and a plaque. Expansion to add the grotto became possible after former Bishop John J. Myers named the area a Peoria "Diocesan Marian Shrine.”