Editor’s note: This article was updated Wednesday, August 16, 2023. This article previously stated that Catholics in Toronto were raising funds in an attempt to purchase the shrine. LifeSiteNews has now been informed that all such plans have been canceled.
TORONTO (LifeSiteNews) — Faithful Catholics are praying that a widely loved Toronto Marian shrine will be saved from being torn down and redeveloped.
The Marian Shrine of Gratitude in Toronto is set to be permanently closed and eventually torn down. Local Catholics understood that demolition would begin on Wednesday, August 16, 2023.
Angela Carboni, the founder and director of the St. Bernadette’s Family Resource Center, a charity that works at the shrine, told LifeSiteNews, “This shrine is a gift to Toronto from our Lady, and God is working for his people. This is a little bit of heaven in the city. And if God has given us this gift, He will provide.”
The shrine is currently the property of the Ukrainian Basilian Fathers. The shrine has been under the care of the faithful since the 2018 passing of Fr. Basil Cembalista, the priest who founded the shrine nearly twenty years ago.
On Friday, August 11, the St. Bernadette’s Family Resource Center was told “to take our things away from there and that on August 16th, security guards would come there and stop anyone from going there anymore.”
The Marian Shrine, open 24-hours a day and 365 days a year, offers a place of prayer, reflection, and contemplation in the busy city of Toronto. For the past 20 years, the shrine has revealed the beauty of God’s creation through its gardens and flowers. Additionally, the many statues throughout the shrine point to the higher realities which go beyond the earthly world.
The shrine is well visited by both Catholics and non-Catholics and is listed on Trip Advisor as even non-religious people recognize the beauty and sanctity of the shrine.
A Toronto-area Catholic known to LifeSiteNews who spoke under condition of anonymity said, “The Marian Shrine of Gratitude is a special spiritual oasis like none other in Toronto, or for that matter, the world. It should be kept as a sacred space for worshippers, not developers. Tearing down this shrine to Our Lady would be most egregious to all those who flock here, and a slap in the face to our faith.”
A fountain of miracles
Veneration and prayer at the shrine are said to have yielded many miracles over the years. According to Father Basil Cembalista, the first miracle took place while he was cleaning brush from the piece of land below the monastery. As he worked, his right eye was punctured by a tree branch.
Cembalista immediately called upon the Blessed Virgin to restore his eye before he was rushed to the doctor. Despite his serious injury, Cembalista was completely healed. In fact, his vision, which had been rapidly deteriorating for the past 13 years, was completely restored.
After his miraculous recovery, Cembalista built the shrine which is said to have resulted in many more healings, both spiritual and physical.
Carboni revealed that she has witnessed hundreds of faithful healed of cancer and paralysis at the site.
Under threat of destruction before
In 2016, the shrine was also under threat of shutting down. However, over 5,000 petitioned to keep the shrine after hearing that the Basilian priests did not plan to renew the lease on the property.
However, Carboni gathered photos, letters and testimonials to demonstrate the shrine is “a little piece of Heaven in the city.”
“This order never knew how much Toronto wanted this shrine,” said Carboni.
“I’ve seen kids and young men that are about 20 years old that are on their way home from a date or on their way home from work that would stop to light a candle for Mary,” said Carboni. “I have seen people on their knees climbing the staircase to the statue of Jesus on the top of the hill thanking Him for graces received.”
As a result of the 5,000 signatures and the work of many others to reveal the importance of the shrine, the place of veneration was saved.
Saving the Marian Shrine
However, now, the shrine is under threat of destruction again, depriving Catholics of a place for meditation and prayer.
Today, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is the last day to sign the petition to save the shrine. Currently, the petition has exceeded its goal of 5,000 signatures. To add your name to save the shrine click here.
Catholics are also planning a candlelight prayer vigil outside the shrine to take place tonight from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. EDT.
On Tuesday, August 15, Carboni was optimistic that she would be able to raise the funds to buy the shrine from the Ukrainian Basilians, saying the Blessed Virgin will “pay for it. I’m not afraid. And I’m excited and actually very excited to.” However, LifeSiteNews has since been informed that all plans to raise funds to purchase the shrine have now been canceled.