Have you noticed the little chapel standing on a bluff overlooking Interstate 80 near the Gretna, Neb., exit?
The Holy Family Shrine is part religion and part art. The glass-enclosed chapel allows visitors an opportunity to spend time praying, meditating, or just admiring its beauty.
COVID-19 Update: The Holy Family Shrine is temporarily closed on Sundays. Masks are required, and hand sanitizers are placed throughout the grounds. There is a limit to how many people can be inside the chapel at one time.
Inside Holy Family Shrine’s Chapel
The chapel is an architect’s dream. With glass walls, the chapel was designed to reflect life on the plains.
Nearly 50 feet tall, the chapel’s red cedar arching wood and trim resemble grain waving on the prairie.
Inside, an altar and about a dozen rows of pews await you. Sit and spend time with your thoughts or just admire the beauty.
Behind the altar, an etching of the holy family – Mary, Joseph, and Jesus – appears on the southern panel. When illuminated, the chapel and the etching create a beautiful sight.
While the chapel is Catholic-based and hosts a mass each Saturday morning, it’s open to everyone regardless of faith. It is a place where people can pray or meditate at their convenience.
Related post: Looking for more chapels with unique architecture in the Midwest? You have to see the gorgeous Chapel in the Hills in Rapid City, S.D.
History of Holy Family Shrine in Nebraska
Opened in 2002, the chapel was the dream of a priest in the early 1990s that eventually brought together four strangers, who worked to make that dream come true. Unknown to each other, they felt a mission to create a special place along the interstate where people could come to pray and practice
their Catholic faith.
Once together, they spent two years working to find the perfect spot on Interstate 80 to become home for the chapel.
The chapel, itself, is a story of collapse and rebirth. Breaking ground in 1997, according to Fast Company, a wind storm destroyed it in 2000.
Undeterred, organizers rebuilt it, and it stands strong today.
What you’ll see at the Holy Family Shrine
Your visit to the Holy Family Shrine includes a tour of the visitors center, with artwork and biblical artifacts that help tell the story of Jesus Christ and the crucifixion. A dozen storyboards describe the history of the shrine.
Representing the shroud of Jesus falling to the ground after his resurrection, a sculpture hangs from the ceiling in the middle of the visitors center.
A stream guides the path from the visitors center to the chapel, and then on to a cross showing Jesus at his crucifixion equals the distance that he traveled, carrying the cross on his march along the Stations of the Cross.
Visit the statue of Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane at the beginning of the trail, then follow the path to the chapel. South of the chapel, standing about 40 feet tall, the cross recognizes Jesus’ sacrifice for people. The statue of Jesus on the crucifix is 8 feet tall and faces the interstate to share his sacrifice with passersby.
Surrounded by a small garden, the site includes a bench for visitors to sit and reflect.
If you go
Holy Family Shrine
Where: 23132 Pflug Road, Gretna, Neb.
The shrine is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday. A gift shop offers religious-themed items.