Shrine a monument to spiritual and economic development

Wisconsin State Roundup

Published April 1, 2000  | April 2000 issue

Practitioners sometimes say economic development is a religion. But can religion be economic development? A recent proposal for a $25 million shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse might offer some intriguing insight.

Proposed by the area Roman Catholic Diocese, the shrine would include a church, a visitors center, a guidance center for catechism teachers, a convent, and several smaller chapels and grottos on 80 acres. A separate $5 million endowment will provide operational funds.

Built with the intention of providing a place for spiritual tranquillity and renewal, the shrine's price tag has sparked some controversy. But the shrine also appears to fit a growing tourism niche in religious pilgrimages that could have significant economic spillover, according to local newspaper accounts.

National shrines have reported strong attendance—and with it, increased use of local motels, restaurants and retail shops—and local tourism and business officials have voiced enthusiasm over the potential of bringing additional tourists to the La Crosse area.