Written by: Denise Serafini on Sunday, November 19, 2017
Taking the tour at Trinity Heights Shrine was similar to getting treated like a queen for a day. When I arrived at the main building, I was greeted by Terry Hegarty, Executive Director at Trinity Heights Shrine, and Connie Funk, one of the Shrine trustees. They arranged to take me on the tour via golf cart. It was a truly hot day and they wanted to be sure I got to take in every aspect of the shrine in a way that would maximize the experience while minimizing any potential for heat exhaustion. What a treat! Not only was I escorted in comfort, I had the best guides to provide historical information and details I would otherwise never have been privy to.
Trinity Heights offers more than two dozen shrines, memorial garden spots and quiet corners for prayer and reflection amidst 14 acres of spacious walkways and soft green spaces. These peaceful grounds, which were the former sites for Trinity College and high school provide a peaceful setting to stroll, pray and reflect.
The shrine is bound on either end by two statues of more than 30 feet, the Immaculate Heart of Mary Queen of Peace and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Each of these statues are visible from any point you visit within the shrine.
As we were going from shrine to shrine, Terry told the story of how he came to be associated with the Trinity Heights. It seems he was a UPS driver and he would take time on his lunch break every day to say a rosary near the grounds that were slowly being built up to create this oasis of peace dedicated to the Trinity and Our Lady. There must have been something special in those prayers Terry offered up on a daily basis since years later Terry ended up in his role as Shrine Director.
In 1993, the thirty foot stainless steel sculpture of Immaculate Heart of Mary Queen of Peace was placed. Towering on the east side of the grounds, she reaches out to visitors and points her right hand toward her Son, the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Unknown to planners and perhaps by divine intervention, she was placed precisely on the spot where the Trinity College Chapel had been located years before. Surrounding Mary are pathways leading to the 20 decades of the Rosary. A short distance away is the Circle of Life Memorial to the Unborn.
The building continued and in 1999 the thirty—three foot statue of the Sacred Heart was placed as the dominant element of the western portion of the grounds. Jesus presides over an Outdoor Cathedral with its Stations of the Cross, the Way of the Saints, the Eight Beatitudes, shrines to the Blessed Virgin (highlighting her major apparitions) and other reminders of the Catholic faith.
The way of the saints includes statues of Mother Teresa, Saint Padre Pio, Saint Therese the Little Flower, Saint Peregrine, and Saints Peter and Paul, to name a few. Our little tour of the area prompted Terry to share a little known story. There are residential houses that line the back side of the Way of the Saints that were owned and sold by the shrine at one time. It seems that a doctor and his wife purchased one of those homes while she was suffering from cancer. Since the home had its positioning close to the little shrine of St. Peregrine, they are convinced that he had a great hand in helping her to be cancer free today. Along the exterior sidewalk they also have six "clusters" of saints where plaques — honoring a total of 60 saints — inform visitors about their lives. Benches and a shady gazebo offer respite from the sun and a place to rest.
The shrine maintains a full schedule of ongoing daily events that includes Holy Mass, Divine Mercy Devotions, Eucharistic Adoration, rosary and annual events such as the National Night of Prayer and Patriotic Rosary.
Along with a large gift shop they also have an impressive life-size carving of the Last Supper that is located in St. Joseph's Center and Museum. The wood sculpture is 22 foot-long, one of only three in-the-round design wood sculptures in the world.
The Last Supper was completed in 1993 by award-winning carver Jerry Traufler of Le Mars, Iowa after seven years of work. Although Jerry was a postal employee, he used his leisure time and talent to create a significant tribute to the Lord. He started with a pencil outline and then took the unique approach of shaping the characters based on his wife and friends, who dressed as individual apostles and posed for photographs.
While Traufler based his outline on the Leonardo Da Vinci painting, his use of friends gives the sculpture a special look. It also has the underlying message for all of us to take on our roles in discipleship for Christ. Sometimes I think we forget that the Apostles were simple men with each their own unique trades in life. Each of us, created as they were by the actions of the Holy Spirit, are simple people called to the same purposes they were, to declare the good news of the Gospels in our prayer, words and actions. Traufler worked to capture the apostle's various expressions conveying attention, questions and discussion. The Traflers, Jerry and Irene, wanted to have this religious work on display in the Midwest, and donated the sculpture to Trinity Heights in 1993.
There are 12 apostles and Jesus in the Last Supper sculpture -- with James and Andrew sculpted as one unit. Each figure weighs 200 to 300 lbs. The work of art also includes individually carved goblets and unleavened bread on a massive table. Sitting in the dim room in front of this sculpture gives you the feeling of being with Christ and His Apostles at that very significant time when the Eucharist was established for the very first time. It’s very existence and positioning within the shrine brings with it some powerful messaging. Although neither Terry nor Connie mentioned it, I think it’s no coincidence that the Last Supper sculpture sits in the middle of the shrine between the Outdoor Cathedral and the Rosary Garden. While the statue of Mary points to Jesus in His Church, they both face the center which is focused on the Eucharist, that very presence Jesus continually shares with us.
My day at the Shrine culminated with the presentation of Call from the Crucified Heart: A Program with Relics of the Passion at the nearby church later that evening. There I got to share with the the parishioners and visitors to the shrine in the graces made available to all that take the time to meditate on the greatest sacrifice God made manifest for our salvation. It all felt like I was in the midst of this great series of graces for the day that began with my tour of the shrine. Although I never sleep in total comfort while I’m on the road, I can tell you I had a very restful night, perhaps an after effect of the graces that surrounded me throughout the day.
I was slated to leave early the next morning for the long trek home, however I was drawn to take the time to go back to Trinity Heights. I took time for prayer along with accommodating the need to get pictures of the various shrines and statues, I drove away thinking about the great gift that God has given to the people of Sioux City. They have the privilege to have a garden complete with flowers, plantings, trees and birds coupled with reminders of our faith, built by the inspiration of the Holy Trinity. This little “holy oasis” allows them to be surrounded by the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate of Heart of Mary along with the saints and the souls of the unborn. There they can take a moment, an afternoon, or even a lunch break, to be wrapped in the graces of the two hearts, with the hope that centers on the promise of His never ending presence with us in the Eucharist.