The devotion to Mary under the title of Our Lady of the Snows is tied to the legend about a marvelous snowfall in Rome in the 4th century. Mary indicated in a dream to a Roman couple that she wanted a church built in her honor and the site for the church would be covered with snow. On a hot summer day, Esquiline Hill was covered with snow. The place where it happened is known for the magnificent Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, which is one of the four papal basilicas in Rome. The beginning of the devotion to Our Lady of the Snows in Illinois, US is connected to the faith and work of Fr Paul Schulte OMI, the renowned “Flying Priest of the Arctic” and Fr Edwin Gild OMI, founder of the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. Fr. Paul Schulte, O.M.I was a pilot who brought medical aid and supplies to remote Oblate missions, particularly north of the Arctic Circle. He developed a strong personal devotion to Our Lady of the Snows while working in the Oblate missions, and built a small chapel in her honor. Fr. Paul Schulte, O.M.I., commissioned the famous artist, J. Watson Davis, to paint a picture of Our Lady of the Snows. Davis depicted an Oblate missionary and his airplane on a sick call to an Inuit (Eskimo) mission with Our Lady appearing surrounded by rays of the Northern Lights.
Following his ministry in the Arctic, Fr. Schulte came to reside at St. Henry’s Seminary in Belleville, Illinois. The painting of Our Lady of the Snows was hung in the seminary chapel. In April of 1943, the perpetual novena to Our Lady of the Snows was begun.
This shrine shows how Our Lord works through various obstacles. Fr Schulte who was German wasn’t allowed to travel around North America during War World II. The local authorities ordered him to stay in one place as they feared that he was a spy. Although restricted to St Henry’s Seminary, he didn’t give up on working for Jesus. He started his humble ministry for the honour of Our Lady of the Snows which started bringing more and more people. Eventually it grew so big that it became a shrine. Fr Schulte’s approach shows that we, as followers of Jesus, cannot stop doing evangelization ministry.