How many times have I journeyed to the tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula just to go through Fort Wilkins? That short vacation in 2003, with just my daughter and my mom, had to be at least the fifth. But that’s all right, because I will never get tired of imagining I am wearing a beastly hot long skirt, with an apron no less, hauling a basket of dirty laundry down to the edge of the lake. Maybe I am not into historical romances, but I am all over the historic stuff.
The day after Fort Wilkins, on our way home, we stopped at another place paying tribute to Michigan’s past. The Shrine of the Snowshoe Priest between Baraga and L’Anse. A 35-foot-high bronzed statue of Father Frederic Baraga rests on five arches, one for each of the five missions he founded. He naturally has a fascinating story, which I won’t cover completely. But let me say that he arrived in the UP in the 1830’s, ministered to both the Native Americans and the copper miners, covered a lot of ground on snowshoes, and became the first Bishop in the UP in 1853.
In 1950, the Bishop Baraga Association was formed with the goal of having him sainted. The shrine was built because all saints need a shrine, but as near as I can tell, the Vatican hasn’t yet made up their mind on Father Baraga.