National Shrine in the News


St. Francis' Shrine Is Always Open To All

By Harold Snider and Matthew G. Elshoff

San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday, November 6, 2013

At the corner of Vallejo and Broadway - in an often noisy and chaotic San Francisco neighborhood - the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi offers an oasis of peace, quiet, and refreshment to the thirsty spirit.

Unfortunately, a small and vocal group has claimed a part of the shrine, the Porziuncola Nuova, as its own. While strong feelings for this special place are understandable, some of this group's tactics do not square with the peaceful mission of St. Francis.

Though the shrine is one of the holiest places in America for Roman Catholics, we regularly welcome hundreds of pilgrims, worshipers and tourists alike. This is how "the little poor man of Assisi" would have wanted things - open to all.

Given the interconnectedness of both of St. Francis' namesakes - the church and the city - it could not be any other way.

Our church predates the founding of the city of San Francisco and the state of California. The present Norman Gothic church, with its elegant twin campanile, was dedicated in March 1860, but its roots go back to a wooden shack built by Army personnel in 1849. Bishop Joseph Alemany consecrated the new structure for St. Francis Parish in 1851. Parish leaders laid the cornerstone of a new church on Oct. 2, 1859.

Fires after the 1906 earthquake consumed the church's interior. The brick walls of the church, together with its scorched towers, remained intact. In March 1919, the Catholic community of San Francisco rededicated the newly restored - and steel reinforced - church. Then, the 1989 earthquake led to another closure, this time for almost nine years.

Today, thanks to the efforts of hundreds of dedicated volunteers and donors, the church is renewing itself again. Visitors see exquisite murals by the Italian painter and illustrator Luigi Brusatori that vividly portray the life of St. Francis. Radiant stained-glass windows depict Gospel events. The church's magnificent pipe organ was installed in 1926 by the Schoenstein Organ Company of San Francisco, enlarged in 1993, and is a regular voice in all of our liturgical celebrations. Many more renewal projects are in the works.

What has drawn special attention to the shrine is La Porziuncola Nuova, a scaled replica of the Benedictine chapel St. Francis restored as a young man. The Porziuncola, which is part of the national shrine, is also open to worshipers and visitors alike. We are fortunate to have numerous volunteer docents who give of their time to provide information, and a friendly face, to our visitors. The National Shrine Church is open most every day of the year. More volunteer docents will enable all of the church, including the Porziuncola, to remain open every day.

We are grateful to the Archdiocese of San Francisco and most especially to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for entrusting the Capuchin Friars with the responsibility for the oversight of the National Shrine of St. Francis.

This small group that seeks to claim the Porziuncola as its own has, unfortunately, launched highly personal attacks on church leaders and volunteers who do not agree with them. Wednesday's Open Forum piece by Angela Alioto provides a taste of the vitriol. In one recent incident, police had to be called to calm one of this group's disruptions in the Porziuncola. We have implored them to stop, and talk directly with us, yet they persist.

In the coming months, San Francisco can look forward to a restored shrine, refreshed and modernized in structure and restored in spirit. We envision more public events, featuring music, lectures, and presentations. St. Francis' church will become even more intertwined with his city.

All of the shrine will remain open to all. Exclusion will be a matter of personal, not institutional, decision - limited to those who wall themselves off from the spirit of inclusiveness and the embrace of all people, regardless of views. An oasis of peace and reflection for all of San Francisco - that is truly what St. Francis would have wanted, and that is what we are bringing to life.

Fr. Harold Snider, OFM, Cap. is rector of the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi, responsible for promoting the church's mission and administering its daily operations. Fr. Matthew G. Elshoff is provincial minister of the Western American Province of Capuchin Franciscans, the order responsible for the care of the National Shrine.



North Beach Business Association Supports Columbarium

August 15, 2013

The Very Reverend Harold Snider,
We are writing in support of your plan to create a pet columbarium at The National Shrine of St Francis of Assisi in North Beach. Our merchant organization thinks this win prove to be a positive addition to our neighborhood as well as a comfort to the many pet owners who regard their pets as family members and would like to have a location where they can honor their memory.

Yours,
Kathleen Dooley
President
North Beach Business Association

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Historic SF church plans memorial space for pets

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A historic Roman Catholic church in San Francisco is planning to build a repository where pet owners will be able to keep the ashes of cats, dogs, and other dearly departed animals.

The National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi is seeking donations for an 850-square-foot columbarium that would be the first in the city for animal remains, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday (http://bit.ly/12pU3AC).

Plans for the space include a stained-glass rendering of St. Francis, who is the patron saint of both animals and San Francisco. Urns containing the ashes of the animals enshrined there will be displayed behind glass while their photographs will be shown on a video screen.

The design also calls for a Hall of Honor for service animals that worked with disabled people and in law enforcement.

The 164-year-old church's rector, the Rev. Harold Snider, says the columbarium will be available to pet owners regardless of their religious affiliations.

"You don't have to be Christian or Catholic to love your pets and respect their memories," Snider said.

Read more...



Plans for Pet Repository in San Francisco Spur Theological Flap

By Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times, August 8, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO — This is, after all, the City of St. Francis. So when a shrine named in his honor announced plans to build a repository for pet ashes in a catacomb-like hollow under the stairs of its 19th-century church, many animal lovers were elated.

Little did they know the plan would stir old-fashioned church politics and deep theological questions. (Is the stair nook a sacred space? Does placement of cinerary urns equate to pet burial? Did St. Francis only care about living creatures?)

Now, as plans for the pet columbarium move forward, critics are taking their concerns well up the church hierarchy.

Tucked between North Beach tourist cafes, the sanctuary hosts a popular blessing of the animals that draws hundreds of people twice yearly — along with their cats, dogs, gerbils, chickens and more.

A resting place for pet cremains seemed more than fitting to Bill McLaughlin, pet advocate and chairman of the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi. The Marin County developer was overseeing church renovations as a volunteer when he happened upon the previously undiscovered alcove under the shrine's front steps.

He proposed the idea to the shrine's Franciscan Capuchin friars, who ran it by San Francisco Roman Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone, and with little discussion the project now known as St. Francis Rest was set in motion.

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Pet Columbarium At National Shrine
Of Saint Francis Of Assisi Underway

By Robin Wilkey, Huffington Post, July 26, 2013

How much do you love you dog? Enough to take him for walks every day? Enough to buy the expensive, grain-free food? Enough to someday house his ashes in the national shrine dedicated to the patron saint of animals?

Soon, the latter might be a possibility.

The National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi in San Francisco announced plans last month to convert an area of the building into a columbarium to house the ashes of deceased pets.

The idea was reportedly sparked due to the repeated popularity of the shrine's annual Blessing of the Animals, which drew over 500 people in June.

Read more...



Historic SF Church Plans Memorial Space for Pets

San Francisco Chronicle, July 26, 2013

A historic Roman Catholic church in San Francisco is planning to build a repository where pet owners will be able to keep the ashes of cats, dogs, and other dearly departed animals.

The National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi is seeking donations for an 850-square-foot columbarium that would be the first in the city for animal remains, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.

Plans for the space include a stained-glass rendering of St. Francis, who is the patron saint of both animals and San Francisco. Urns containing the ashes of the animals enshrined there will be displayed behind glass while their photographs will be shown on a video screen.

The design also calls for a Hall of Honor for service animals that worked with disabled people and in law enforcement.

Read more...



North Beach Church Hoping to House Dead Pets in Basement

By Joe Rosato Jr, NBC Bay Area
Saturday, Jun 22, 2013

In a newly discovered grotto beneath the front steps of St. Francis of Assisi church, a San Francisco priest envisions building a columbarium to house the ashes of the dearly departed pets.

During his lifetime, Saint Francis of Assisi was famously devoted to animals. Paintings and statues depict the saint frolicking with birds, dogs and other beasts.

The lore of San Francisco's namesake seemed an ideal fit for a city where dogs outnumber kids. Inside the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi in San Francisco's North Beach, tributes to the saint's life abound, especially in its annual blessing of the animals.

For the rest of this news story, click here.



North Beach Church Plans Pet Columbarium

September, 2013 issue of Bay Woof

San Francisco's historic National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi has begun fund-raising efforts for the city's first columbarium for the ashes of dearly departed pets. For a yet-to-be determined fee, the cremated remains of up to 1,000 animals would be enshrined in a newly discovered grotto beneath the 164-year-old church's front steps.

Plans for the columbarium include a stained-glass rendering of St. Francis, the city's namesake and the patron saint of animals. Small, glass-fronted niches would hold memorial urns and small memorabilia, and a monitor would play video loops of the deceased pets. The design also calls for a Hall of Honor for animals involved in service, search and rescue, law enforcement, and the military.

Read more...