Our Peregrine Story
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes will soon host a St. Peregrine shrine. Any Catholic who has battled cancer, or has had loved ones battle cancer, will likely know a little about St. Peregrine, the patron of cancer patients. For KellieMarie Plumlee, her journey with St. Peregrine began during a visit to the Grotto in Portland, Oregon. The Grotto, or the National Shrine of Our Sorrowful Mother, is a 62-acre shrine with gardens, chapels, and devotional sites, run by the Servite Fathers. The Grotto is also home to a shrine to St. Peregrine, who was a Servite Father. It was the mosaic of St. Peregrine that caught Plumlee’s eye. She said, “the place was so spiritual.”
“I started reading about St. Peregrine and I thought to myself ‘I know him.’ It felt like I knew him, it was strange—like I had known this person my whole life,” Plumlee said. She knew so many people in her family and among her friends who have or had cancer, so she began to develop a devotion to St. Peregrine. This devotion began a new family tradition for the Plumlees. “I started going there once a year with my husband and my youngest of my kids,” she said. “We would start taking the names of our sick people and we would go to the shrine; they have a place where you can leave the names and they take all the names and pray for them in a healing Mass once a month.”
Traveling annually to Portland was meaningful and important to Plumlee and her family, but something kept nudging her. “I kept thinking, we are supposed to have one of these, we are supposed to have this in Spokane,” she said. As she was telling her aging mother about this feeling, that Spokane needed a shrine to St. Peregrine, her mother told her “you know you are supposed to do something about this.” Despite Plumlee’s insistence to her mother that she wasn’t the one to bring a shrine to Spokane, her mother gave her some sound advice, “you either do what you need to do or let it go so someone else can take this idea and get this shrine going.”
St Peregrine, Our Lady of Lourdes, and Spokane
Spokane is home to many cancer centers, and people come from around the region for treatment. The cathedral itself has a history of healing Masses and devotional ministries. For the last decade, the annual novena to Our Lady of Lourdes for Healing has drawn people to the cathedral each February to pray for healing from physical, mental, and spiritual ailments. Father Darrin Connall, rector of the cathedral, developed a devotion to St. Peregrine through his own battle with cancer.
For Plumlee, the need for a St. Peregrine devotional site in Spokane seemed obvious, and the cathedral seemed like a natural home for it, but she knew she couldn’t do it alone, so she brought the idea to the Altar Society. She knew that when the cathedral was built, the Altar Society ladies had fundraised for the Nativity rose window in the west transept of the cathedral, and thought they might be willing to get behind this building project, as well. The altar society agreed to help. Plumlee said they wanted the effort to be more than a building project, it was to be a ministry. With the Altar Society’s backing, Plumlee brought the idea to Father Connall.
While the decision to build the shrine was being considered, the Altar Society started to help in collecting cards asking for St. Peregrine’s prayers. Plumlee and a friend from the Altar Society, Jayne Kubasak, decided to make a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of St. Peregrine at the Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows in Chicago, Illinois. Plumlee, Kubasak, and the collection of prayer cards from cathedral parishioners set out on a 40-hour train ride to Chicago. Plumlee had read a book about St. Peregrine by a Servite priest named Christ Krymski, who serves at the Shrine in Chicago. When they attended the healing Mass at the Shrine and brought the prayer cards with them, they had a chance to meet Father Krymski. He asked for their prayer cards and promised to take them with him on an upcoming trip to the Holy Land and continue to pray for them. “It was such a beautiful experience, and I knew we had to keep working on the shrine,” Plumlee said about the pilgrimage.
When a call arrived from Father Connall, Plumlee was excited to hear that the project was approved. The decision to build the new shrine coincided with the renovations to Our Lady of Lourdes, so a place was made for the shrine in the new layout of the cathedral. The shrine, while housed at the cathedral, is meant to be a place of prayer for the whole community; for all those in treatment, and for those with family and friends who are ill. For Plumlee, the shrine is not one person’s project or one parish’s shrine, it is all part of of what she calls “our Peregrine story,” a journey that the community is making to spiritually serve those sick with cancer.
“The last two years have been slow,” Plumlee said, “but we have raised $20,000 so far.” Overall, the project still needs to raise another $60,000-80,000. Plumlee is confident, however, that “if we build it, they will come.” The Altar Society started the St. Peregrine Ministry and has made crafts to sell as part of the fundraising process; rosary bags, rosaries, bracelets with a St. Peregrine medal, and more. They have had success selling the products at craft fairs, and even had opportunities to share the Catholic faith with those who visit their booth.
This past year, a local artist named Shayne Swenson began to work on the painting of St. Peregrine that will be the focal point of the shrine, and preliminary drawings have been made by Mario & Son stone company for the remainder of the shrine.
This whole journey has impacted Plumlee in many ways. She was diagnosed with cancer, and is fortunate to be one year cancer free at the time of writing. She said through her diagnosis and treatment, “I knew and felt St. Peregrine advocating for me, never once doubting I would be fine.” St. Peregrine was known during his life for being close to those who were ill, empathetically listening and bringing the love of Christ to those who were suffering. As Plumlee and those involved in the St. Peregrine Ministry have sold their crafts, she said she has enjoyed hearing why people are buying the rosary bags, saying, “We all have stories of meaningful moments and want to share them with others. St. Peregrine must have had great joy in listening to people even in their illness ... getting to be the person they trusted with their moment.”
In her own walk in faith during this project, Plumlee said she has learned to “listen more.” She continued, “we have often missed the many times we have been called to do something. I had those feelings like ‘I should do this but oh, He couldn’t be talking about me.’ Or ‘oh, I should join this group and help with this cause, oh no he couldn’t be asking me.’ And I think all those times are missed chances.” Plumlee said Christ does not tire of calling us: “We are called and called and called, and sometimes we can’t hear or we won’t let ourselves hear. But he really is talking to us, once you accept that you can feel it.” She said that at that point you feel the Holy Spirit pushing you, keeping you on track, “and you know then you are doing the right thing.”