Milwaukee—Archbishop Timothy Dolan will be the main celebrant of the dedication Mass celebrating Pope Benedict XVI's granting Minor Basilica status to Holy Hill, National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 19.

The Mass, open to the public, will include musical selections performed by singers and musicians from local parishes in the area. A featured piece will be "Salve Regina," sung by the Discalced Carmelite Friars. Seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis.

With the new status, the internationally-acclaimed church will be referred to as The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians. According to Archbishop Dolan, the archdiocese will refer to the beloved sacred site as The Basilica of Holy Hill.

The Mass is expected to draw religious dignitaries from across the Midwest and local civic leaders. The Friars are celebrating the 100-year anniversary of their arrival to Holy Hill.

During the dedication, symbols representing Pope Benedict XVI will be displayed, including his Coat of Arms, and a red and gold paneled umbrella. The umbrella symbolizes earlier times when it was held over the head of the pope as he visited a basilica. There will also be a small bell used when announcing the pope's coming and a plaque of dedication located in the back of the church. "Holy Hill is a national treasure of the Church, richly deserving of this status," Archbishop Dolan said. "The dedication Mass provides a wonderful opportunity for people of all faiths to attend and understand the Church in the midst of history and universality. Under the care of the Discalced Carmelites, Holy Hill and the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians, remains a wonderful confluence of natural beauty, peaceful prayer, great spiritual nourishment, evangelical mission and the focal point of a vibrant local, regional and national church." The Minor Basilica status makes Holy Hill one of nearly 60 churches and the second in Wisconsin so honored in the United States. The Basilica of Saint Josaphat, a Minor Basilica, was named by Pope Pius XI in 1929.

The basilica process, initiated by the Discalced Carmelite Friars and supported by Archbishop Dolan last April, required dossier materials documenting Holy Hill as a place of pilgrimage and special devotion, and a center of historic significance, characterized by architecture and artistry. Annually more than 250,000 people visit Holy Hill. Ethnic groups from around the world make yearly pilgrimages to the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians.

Holy Hill History

The history of Holy Hill extends back to the evangelization of the region by French explorer Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette, who is said to have surveyed the expansive beauty of the region from atop the hill. Since then the hill has became a special place of prayer and faith.

The early settlers to the Holy Hill area came in 1842 from the counties of Kerry, Cork and Waterford in Ireland. Around 1863 a French layman, Francois Soubrio, established for himself a small hermitage on the side of the hill. The locals, at first skeptical, eventually befriended him and sought his wise and prayerful counsel. Local farmers are said to have joined with him to build a cabin for the hermit and at the same time they made plans to build the first log chapel, the first permanent structure on the hill. At the first Mass, Father George Strickner dedicated the simple new chapel as the Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians.

In the mid-1800s, German immigrants began to settle and farm in the area. In June of 1906 the Discalced Carmelite Friars arrived at Holy Hill from Bavaria at the invitation of Archbishop Sebastian Messmer. Best recognized by their brown hooded habits, the Friars are responsible for the ministry, as well as the stewardship and care of the church and Shrine.

Following the French, the Irish and the Germans whose communities continue to be drawn to Holy Hill, Hispanics now come to make Corpus Christi Processions and Vietnamese come to walk the Way of the Cross.

A registered Wisconsin and United States landmark, Holy Hill and its accompanying Shrine and Monastery, sit atop one of the highest points in the southeastern part of the state. Located 1,350 feet above sea level, visitors are offered a commanding view of the area. Holy Hill remains a revered pilgrimage site for its religious significance, beauty and period architectural style.