At the request of Father Leonard Callahan, O.P., Fourth Provincial of the Province of The Holy Name, Father William Thomas Lewis, O.P. began the Shrine devotion in October 1935. Father Thomas McElhatton, O.P., in 1953, moved the Shrine, then consisting of the statue of St. Jude, from the entrance to the Lady Chapel to its present site. Generous benefactors made it possible to obtain the present statue, and the altar and stained glass windows were donated in memory of Fr. G. L. Clark.
Under the Provincialate of Father Joseph Fulton, O.P., Father Patrick D. Kane, O.P. was appointed director. Through his initiative, and with the assistance of Fr. Joseph Asturias, O.P and others, the Shrine ministry expanded rapidly, laying the groundwork for what it is today: a vibrant and prayerful devotional ministry weekly reaching thousands of St. Jude devotees who, by mail or in person, seek the intercession of St. Jude. Seven novenas are offered annually, three preached, a daily Mass is offered at 5:30 p.m., to which all are invited, and a priest is readily available to accommodate the many pilgrims who come in increasing numbers. In addition, the annual St. Jude Pilgrimage draws thousands of people from across the Western US and beyond to join in procession through the streets of San Francisco, giving witness by their presence to their devotion to St. Jude.
The Shrine of St. Jude is an oasis set in the midst of the spiritual dryness that can all too often mark our society. Located in an ideal setting for reflection, prayer and meditation, it attracts many visitors each day who find a sermon in stone in the gothic grandeur of St. Dominic’s Church. In 1985, this peaceful setting was disturbed with the news that the church was considered to be an endangered species, subject to severe damage from possible earthquakes. In 1989, in the midst of plans to strengthen the church edifice, we experienced the Loma Prieta earthquake, which damaged the beautiful tower, necessitating the removal of the upper portion, or “crown,” but leaving intact the interior of the church.
The challenge before us was either to go forward with the expensive restoration process or be faced with the possibility of having the entire structure demolished. This challenge was met with a magnificent response from the parish, long-time friends and benefactors of the church, and the friends and devotees of St. Jude.
The herculean task of raising $7 million was met, and on August 1, 1992, the first phase of this immense effort was completed with the dedication of the church by Archbishop John R. Quinn.
Today, the St. Jude Shrine sits resplendent in a completely restored St. Dominic’s Church, welcoming pilgrims with loving consolation as it has done since its founding in 1935. The staff of the Shrine, meanwhile, continues to receive and respond to the many letters, phone calls and other communication we receive from St. Jude devotees and others seeking prayers, services, and the special graces that flow from devotion to our holy patron St. Jude Thaddeus, saint of impossible cases.