Photo credit: Lisa Allen / Single TravelingMom

The National Shrine of Mary Mother of the Church was not my kids’ favorite stop during our trip to Lake of the Ozarks — but it was mine.

The centerpiece is a 14-foot stainless steel rotating Mary. My kids deemed her creepy, but I was mesmerized by her motion. The only recognized National Shrine in Missouri, the Shrine was initially intended as a way to honor Mary and to handle the overflow of crowds at summer services at St. Patrick’s. It is now home to not only the National Shrine but also the Mother’s Wall, the Shrine of St. Patrick and the Avenue of Flags.


Photo credit: Lisa Allen / Single TravelingMom

We visited in the height of Ozark heat, so we had the grounds to ourselves. It was somewhat difficult to know where to start or exactly what we were seeing; the pamphlet receptacles were empty and we couldn’t find anyone on the grounds or in the building to ask questions. So we wandered.

Getting Nostalgic at the National Shrine

We traced our hands over the names etched into marble, and I wondered about the memories held by the families who ensured their mothers’ names would be forever carved in stone in such a beautiful place.

At the base of one of the walls, we saw a small statue of an angel and next to the statue, partially hidden against the wall, was a wallet nestled between the rocks and a hat. Since there wasn’t another soul in sight, I had to wonder if those once belonged to someone who loved a woman whose name was now memorialized on that wall. I imagined siblings gathering there together, placing the items their dad touched every single day near their mother’s name so they could once again be just a bit closer.

Something for Kids at the National Shrine

My kids weren’t quite as intrigued by the wallet or the wall, but they did find the fountain and the water to be beautiful. They were even more interested in the Avenue of Flags. The flags—100 of them—were gifts from people who visited the Shrine and donated a flat to honor their country. Some people gave flags to honor their heritage. Today, anyone can adopt a flag and dedicate it to a loved one.

Photo credit: Lisa Allen

Photo credit: Lisa Allen / Single TravelingMom

Letting them wander off and try to beat each other in their knowledge (or lack thereof) of which flag belonged to each country gave me a little bit of time to wander on my own. I’ve always been mesmerized by churches and stained glass (I spent the bulk of my only trip so far abroad in various churches around London), and the Mother’s Shrine is completely different as it’s outside. There are no high arches or towering beams, but there is lush greenery, vibrant flowers and the respite of the breeze, welcome though sporadic.

Honoring Motherhood at the National Shrine

I was able to experience the Stations of the Cross in a different way as I walked instead of stood in a pew, and I was able to literally look up to the stainless steel Mary and the bronze Joseph. They look different when framed by clear blue sky and floating clouds than they do against a brick or marble wall.

I think what I loved most is that this is a place that holds deep reverence for Mary and for motherhood. The Shrine welcomes everyone and honors any mother regardless of race, color, creed or any other qualifier. The brochure I found said there are 37 states and 13 countries represented on the Wall.

I’m sure we’ll return, hopefully in the fall or spring, and when we do I’m looking forward to touring inside the buildings and stopping into the gift shop.

The National Shrine of Mary Mother of the Church is located in Laurie, Missouri. While in the Lake of the Ozarks area, it was a 20 minute drive from Camdenton and, depending on which part of Lake of the Ozarks you begin, could be up to a 40 minute drive. Had I realized that, I’d have picked up water and snacks before the trip since there were few options the closer we got to Laurie. Also, while the grounds are always open and can be walked anytime, the Shrine of St. Patrick is open from 8am to 5pm. There are daily masses, though times change with the season. Check the website at