The National Shrine Museum of St. Therese is situated on the Carmelite Campus in Darien, Illinois, a 40-acre property that is home to the Carmelite Spiritual Center, the Carmelite Meditation Garden, and the Carmelite Gift Shop as well as the Shrine Museum. The Shrine includes both a museum devoted to the saint and a chapel where visitors can reflect and worship. The Shrine Museum is open every day of the week from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
The museum is a rich treasury of relics and memorabilia of St. Therese. The collection is the largest outside Lisieux, France, the home of her convent, Le Carmel.
Highlights of the National Shrine museum include photographs of the saint, paintings of scenes from her life, a special Prayer Gazebo, and a full sized replica of her convent cell which includes several second-class relics. The museum also has several first-class relics of St. Therese.
St. Therese was very dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the patroness of the Carmelites. The Shrine Museum features a large collection of Our Lady of Mount Carmel statues from around the world.
The center of the National Shrine is a chapel, dominated by huge stain-glass windows that depict the journey of the soul to God, modeled on St. John of the Cross’ Ascent of Mount Carmel.
The front of the chapel is dominated by a massive wood carving of the life of St. Therese. It tells her whole life story in a visual and beautiful way. It is the largest wood carving of a religious nature in the United States.
Every week day, Monday through Friday, Mass is celebrated at 11:30.
Pilgrimage groups of 20 or more can arrange a special guided day or overnight of prayer and communion with St. Therese, by calling 800-647-1430.
The Wings of Fire: new Life and Devotion
In 1975, a fire destroyed St. Clara’s Carmelite Church in the south side of Chicago, and effectively destroyed the National Shrine of St. Therese, which it had housed as a side altar since the 1920s. It seemed like an end of an era. Some thought it was the end of the devotion. But like the Phoenix bird, from fire winged forth new opportunities for life.
The shrine items were moved from St. Clara’s to the Aylesford Priory for a period of time. A devoted Lay Carmelite woman left the Carmelites a bequest in her will to build a shrine to the Little Flower.
The multi-million dollar gift was used to build a new Shrine to the Little Flower in Darien, Illinois, on the Aylesford Carmelite campus. Fr. Terry Sempowski, then Director of the Little Flower Society, oversaw the design and construction, trying to be faithful to Carmelite spirituality and her “little way.”
The Shrine building was dedicated on November 1, 1987 and underwent extensive renovation in 2015.