End of an era: After nearly a century, Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Enfield closes
It’s the end of an era and a return to another.
The Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette and ministries in Enfield are closing at the end of the week — after 96 years.
And the neighboring Enfield Shaker Museum will officially purchase the property Friday for $1.5 million. The 28 acres along the shores of Mascoma Lake once belonged to the Shaker community.
The Shakers have been in Enfield since 1793.
"For the first time in 96 years, the North Family and the Church Family of the Enfield Shakers will be together again, as one property, just as it had been historically," said Carolyn Smith, president of the board for the Enfield Shaker Museum.
The museum's purchase of the site was made possible through a $3 million fundraising campaign. Smith said the first $1.5 million was reached this summer, which allows the museum to secure the property and five historic Shaker buildings, along with two structures from the La Salette Catholic order.
The remaining $1.5 million of the capital campaign will go toward repairs and maintenance on the property for the next three to five years, Smith said.
The acquisition allows the museum to preserve and restore historic Shaker buildings, expand its program offerings, and ensure open space and continued access to the hillside.
The shrine itself, with the stations of the cross and the rosary walk, will remain on the hillside, Smith said.
"The museum and the town of Enfield feel very fortunate to have this location of national importance," she said. "There were only ever 17 Shaker villages in the whole world, and one of them happens to be here in Enfield."
"It comes full circle," said Father John Sullivan, who's served as director of the La Salette Shrine for the past eight years.
The Shrine is perhaps best known for its Festival of Lights each December. "I think it will be a smaller version this coming Christmas, you know, God willing," Sullivan said.
"This is a kind of a win-win situation that the Shaker community have bought this back," he said. "Because they will preserve a lot here and it won't be developed into individual million-dollar homes that would divide it up and take away the use of the public land, so to speak."
Sullivan is being assigned to a parish outside of Atlanta.
He summed up his time in Enfield with one word: "Gratitute."
"I just turned 80 yars old," he said. "But thank God I still have good health. And I look forward to a new challenge. I see it as an adventure."