As the season for Sunday drives hits its peak with the spring weather, it will take just a short jaunt to encounter beauty, inspiration and a few miracles. At only about 30 miles northwest of Milwaukee, you won’t have to worry much about packing up the family and supplies needed to keep children busy and nourished.

Top: The Basilica and National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians. Bottom: Pilgrims pray in the main church.

In fact, nourishment, while not the fruit and juice box type, is plentiful high atop a hill near Hubertus, Wisconsin. Here is one of the most remarkable churches: the Basilica and National Shrine of Mary, Help of Chistians. It is said you can see the Milwaukee skyline from vantage points atop the facility. Viewing the Kettle Moraine area is indeed awe-inspiring. Many recommend this as a perfect destination to view the explosion of fall colors.

Pilgrims and tourists alike will find themselves changed by the time they spend on Holy Hill because, as Shrine rector Fr. Donald Brick, O.C.D., oberved, this sacred space “is a place of worship, evangelization, and reconciliation. It offers visitors the opportunity for a deepening  conversion, a step forward in the journey to God, with Mary as the model for that journey.”

Officially established by Fr. George Strickner in 1863, the current church and shrine were consecrated by Archbishop Sebastian Messmer in 1931. Among the notable features of the church is the shrine chapel which houses a rare statue of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, presenting her Son to the world; the statue was donated to the shrine in 1878.

Visitors can also encounter the Chapel of St. Therese of Lisieux, located below the main church or climb the 178 steps of the Scenic Tower for a dramatic view of coutryside. The shrine church was designated a basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.

For Fr. Brick, a Discalced Carmelite priest who has been in residence at Holy Hill for 17 years, the Shrine is an important gift to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and to the Church. “It is a place of hope and healing for many people,” Fr. Brick said. “It is a place of invitation where people journey in the their life to meet God.  It offers a place of healing and reconciliation. It is a place where people can get away from the noise of the world to encounter the beauty of God and the Peace he can give.”

The historic image of Mary in the Shrine Chapel.

Fr. Brick’s  community has served at the Shrine since 1906 and he believes their presence and spirituality are an essential part of the experiece at Holy Hill. “The Carmelites offer people a place of encounter with God in the Shrine. It is the mission of Carmel to assist people in that encounter with God. It is an invitation to meet the living God.”

One of the most moving sites at Holy Hill is the collection of crutches and canes left by pilgrims who experienced physical healings, which they attribute to the interession of Mary, Help of Christians. Thinking of these “miracles,” Fr. Brick recalled “I was out golfing and made a 50-foot putt and I said, ‘Boy, that was a miracle.’ The gentleman who I was playing with, unknown to me, had been to Holy Hill and replied, ‘No, a miracle is that my wife had cancer and we came to Holy Hill for the healing Mass and she just left the doctor today cancer free.’”

Shrine visitors are welcome to meditate on the Passion and Death of Jesus as they walk the beautiful outdoor Stations of the Cross, celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation (which is offered daily), pray before the Blessed Sacrament in the basilica church, or light a candle in the shrine chapel. There is a stocked gift shop for those wanting to carry some inspiration home.

Fr. Brick believes pilgrims will encounter God’s healing mercy and love. “Mary’s Shrine invites people from across the country and beyond into the saving moment of faith, hope and charity,” Fr. Brick said. “It is here that the faithful gather to worship God, give honor to Mary, and are sent to spread God’s Word wherever they go.”

All this, and you won’t have to pack any overnight bags.

To learn more about Holy Hill, visit