My flight was a little early and my customer won't be ready for me until 1. This means I have about an hour to kill. I can't check into my hotel (I called) so moving on means heading to Gretna, Nebraska, 20 miles from Omaha to see the Holy Family Shrine. I am not Catholic but I assume they won't turn me away at the door.
The road to the shrine (in the distance on the right) isn't paved.
Although this is visible from a highway (not the one I came in on) it is really in the middle of nowhere.
If you don't see it from the highway and you don't know about this place,
you would never find it. This is what I passed coming in the way I did.
You enter through the visitor's center. This spiral in the ceiling drips
water into a pool below.
That water runs through a channel in the ground along this walk and into the chapel.
The water continues through the small notches in the floor next to the pews all the way to the front where it makes a small moat around the altar.
I am alone in here and it is cool and very quiet. This is quite possibly the most peaceful place I have ever been. The surrounding grounds are beautifully maintained and landscaped with wildflowers. In this view from the altar, there is a stand by the door on the left side where people can write a prayer for someone.
Yes, I wrote something. No, I won't say what.
Behind the shrine, they are adding a walkway to this statue of Christ on the cross. There are wooden benches where can sit below the statue. The only thing that takes away from this is the traffic on the highway (you can see it in the background if you look to the middle-right of the image).
When I first found out about this place on the Roadside America website, I visited the shrine's website which indicates they have one Catholic Mass service on Saturday at 10:00 am. There are no other regular services here. You also cannot get married here, renew your vows, or be baptized here.
Initially, I wondered, how do they even afford to stay open? At home in Texas, I thought wow, they could fill their calendar with wedding after wedding and make a bucket of money. This is answered in part by the donations they accept and the items they sell in the visitor's center. The brochure says that approximately 25,000 people visit annually. And they do allow some events but these are primarily concerts (of a religious nature) tours and of course, worship services including Mass (you provide the priest, there is no priest-in-residence here).
After having been there, I am glad they keep it for what it was originally intended rather than allowing it to become a sad little event center that is never available for the solitary traveler with a rental car and an hour to spare.