Shrine remains open despite road restrictions

Concerts, bus tours and other events are on hold because of erosion damage to a main access road, but Holy Family Shrine just off Interstate 80 near Gretna remains open during normal business hours to welcome visitors.

"We ask everyone to pray for us and to be patient – we just have to bear with it and hope we get through these hard times," said Deacon David Christensen, office manager of the shrine and a member of St. Joseph Parish in Springfield.

Pflug Road has been closed since late spring, and repairs planned for early 2018 won’t be completed until this coming spring, Deacon Christensen said. Visits to the shrine are down about 25 percent compared with the same time last year, he said.

"We’ve had a great number of people who have called and asked if we’re even open anymore, and some are deciding to hold off until the road is repaired," he said.

The shrine’s normal hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., including a 10 a.m. Saturday Mass, and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., he said.

Until repairs are made, visitors to the shrine traveling Interstate 80 can take the customary exit to the shrine, exit 432, and go south on Nebraska Highway 31, but proceed past Pflug Road. Turn west on Ruff Road instead and drive to Fishery Road, then turn north, and then east at another juncture with Pflug Road, proceeding to the shrine.

People should use caution, as well, he said, because the roads are gravel and there are several blind curves and single-lane bridges.

"Our biggest concern is safety, so we don’t want anyone to get hurt, and we’re not taking any bus tour reservations at this time," he said. "Plus, access may be difficult anytime it snows."

The Holy Family Shrine, which opened in 2002, annually draws an estimated 20,000 visitors from all over the world.

It includes a chapel with glass walls and a 40-foot-high crucifix overlooking the Platte River valley, a visitor’s center and gift shop, a life-size bronze statue of Jesus in prayer, and a garden of flowers and native grasses.

A nonprofit organization, Holy Family Shrine Inc., built and operates the shrine, relying on donations. Gifts can be made to PO Box 507, Gretna, NE 68028.

Deacon Christensen expressed confidence in the shrine’s future, despite this bump in the road. "The Lord has looked out for us so far, so we have no reason to doubt him," he said.

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