Built in the 1930s on a small tidal island about 20 miles north of Juneau, Alaska, the Shrine to Saint Thérèse honors a 19th century French nun, with a chapel, a labyrinth, and majestic views of Lynn Canal, Favorite Channel, and the Chilkat Mountains.
Saint Thérèse was a Carmelite nun, born in 1873 in Alençon, northern France. She only lived to be 24, but her 24 short years have had a big impact on the lives of devoted Catholics. She’s been adopted by many causes, towns and cities as their patron saint — including as the patron saint of Alaska. In the early 1930s, a shrine to Thérèse was envisioned by a Jesuit priest named Fr. William G. LeVasseur, hoping to realize his dream of a retreat for the Diocese of Juneau. By 1938 a site was chosen, 22 miles north of Juneau on the shore of Favorite Channel. Only accessible on foot and at low tide, a permanent causeway was built to get to the site, and the cornerstone of a small chapel was laid. Constructed from beach stones that were cleared from the land and waterways, the chapel took a few years to complete. Eventually several other buildings and spiritual touchstones were added, including Stations of the Cross, a meditative labyrinth, and cabins for retreaters.
The Shrine has endured their share of financial struggles over the years, but parishioners and locals alike have rallied around the young nun from Alençon, adopting her, sharing her and keeping her company at the other end of the causeway.
Know Before You Go
The Shrine is located in Tongass National Forest, approximately 22 miles "out the road" north of downtown Juneau.