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Over 120 years of serving the people of God in Coney Island The Story of the Our Lady of Solace Shrine Statue

In the town of San Valentino, Torio in the province of Salerno, Italy, there is venerated a miraculous statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This particular statue is venerated under the title of Our Lady of Consolation or Our Lady of Solace. This statue is made of wood and is of great artistic value. Our statue at Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace is heavy, baked ceramic.

In the following story you will find where this very unique and beautiful statue came from and why it is venerated.

In the town of San Valentino, Torio there was a group of townspeople who then called themselves the “Confraternity of the Dead”; it was their unique obligation to remember and pray for the repose of the souls of the deceased.

This Confraternity of the Dead possessed a small chapel that was located in the cemetery, and which contained the statue of Our Lady of Solace. At the foot of this particular statue was sculptured the “Souls of Purgatory.”  It is for this reason that our statue was originally called “Our Lady of Dead.”  Looking closely at the statue one sees the Blessed Mother bringing to the souls of purgatory Her Son, who is their hope of resurrecting to new and to eternal life. Below Our Lady and Christ is seen the souls of purgatory with out-stretched arms and the chains of sin around their wrist broken by the power of Christ’s death and resurrection.

It came to pass that the small chapel of the Confraternity of the Dead which contained this statue of the Virgin Mary began to crumble. It came to the point where the chapel became dangerous for the many faithful who came to pray for the souls of purgatory. It was then decided that the chapel should be torn down. So in the year 1873 the statue of Our Lady of the Dead was removed from the chapel and relocated in the local church of Our Lady of the Annunciation.

The statue was enclosed in a wooden and glass case and placed in the wing located off the main alter. According to tradition, it is said that the statue of the Virgin left the church on three separate occasions and returned to the site of the original chapel which was in ruins. It is said that only after the townspeople made a solemn act of reparation did the statue finally remain in the church. The piety of the people toward the Virgin Mary increased as time went on and found the church crowded with the faithful who came to offer their prayers for the souls in purgatory.

In 1880, the church too was in need of repair, the roof was leaking and the dampness was beginning to ruin the interior of the church. In order to protect their statue it was then moved out of the church and placed in the foyer because it was the driest place. Due to the lack of funds, the church was not able to be restored and finally forced to close. With the church being closed devotion to the statue of Our Lady of the Dead was stopped. Only a small number of people joined together every evening at the doors of the closed church to recite the rosary and to light a votive candle in front of the statue.

One evening in August of 1890, the small group of people who had come to recite the rosary and light again their votive candle were given a sign from our Lady. It is said that while in prayer this group of faithful believers saw the eyes on the statue of the Blessed Virgin begin to move. They remained terrified for a while, but then fled the church to announce to the town what they had seen. For several days the miracle of the movement of the eyes continued so that all in the town could come and witness it. Father Eugenio D’Ambrosi, who was then the spiritual father for the Confraternity of the Dead also witnessed and testified to this phenomenon. After this miracle of the Blessed Virgin, devotion to this statue of Mary once again increased. Stories of the miracle quickly spread outside the town and countless numbers of pilgrims came with their needs to seek the graces of Mary and to offer their votive gifts for favors received through Her intercession.

The greatest miracle occurred during the month of July in 1892. A woman who had emigrated to the United States from San Valentino Torio returned to her hometown in order to seek a cure for her illness from the Virgin Mary, this woman was blind and prayed for the return of her sight. Although she underwent surgery, it proved in her case to be futile. In July 1892, a Mass was celebrated for the woman in order that she obtain her sight through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. During the Mass, while everyone was kneeling in prayer, a scream was heard throughout the church and the words: “Virgin of Consolation. I can see! How beautiful and powerful you are.” The Virgin Mary had granted the wish of this woman. From that time even to the presented, they began to call upon the Virgin Mary under the title of “Our Lady of Solace” (Madonna Della Consolazione).

Due to this and other miracles attributed to devotion to this image of the Virgin Mary, the Bishop of the Diocese, asked the Holy Father to examine the miracles and to decree a “coronation” of the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Solace, the Madonna Della Consolazione. On June 30, 1906, the Vatican communicated to the Bishop of Sarno that he would be able to proceed with the coronation of the miraculous statue.

Two crowns were constructed by a jeweler from Naples; one for the head of the Virgin Mary and the other for the head of the Christ Child. The crowns represented the faithfulness of the people who invoke the Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Solace. On October 1, 1906, in the presence of Rev. Joseph Francis Brophy (founder and first pastor of Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace in Coney Island), the miraculous statue of the Virgin Mary was solemnly crowned by the Bishop.  To the present day, the people of San Valentino Torio continue to place themselves under the patronage of Our Lady of Solace along with those countless others who have received graces and favors through the intercession of the Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Solace.