In 1917 this cabin became the white-washed chapel of the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity. Here Father Thomas Augustine Judge, C.M. offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the first time for a small group of lay volunteers who had answered his plea for help for the Church in the Southland.
Dreams born of vibrant faith and nourished by unbounded hope were fired with “charity at white heat” as Father Judge gathered the group around this simple altar. These recruits caught the spirit of this priest on fire with the love of God, who reached out to men, women and children, especially wherever there was a great need in the surrounding area. The work grew. More volunteers came and the spirit of dedication deepened and blossomed into total commitment.
Thus from the lay missionaries was born the religious congregation of the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity. Louise Keasey, a volunteer from Butler, Pennsylvania, became Mother Mary Boniface and the first General Custodian of the Sisters. Soon after came the religious congregation of priests and Brothers: the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity. Father Judge changed the name from Cottonton to Holy Trinity, AL. with its own post office.
The first Sisters lived in a remodeled chicken coop and some other small buildings which gave way to a large, simple Motherhouse of native pine erected in 1924 within sight of the Chapel. This building was totally destroyed by fire in 1930. Thus Philadelphia, Pennsylvania became the new location for the Sisters’ main Missionary Cenacle. The fire had left untouched this original chapel, now known as the Shrine of the Blessed Trinity.
Reflection on Our Shrine and Father Thomas A. Judge, CM, MSSsT
by Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick ST, 1958
“If you are looking for the greatness of a man, you will find the indelible portrait of his greatness etched in the environment which has produced him. And, again, you will find the image of his spirit fused and welded into the souls of the disciples who have chosen to follow in his footsteps. This is the severe test which Time and History make of human values. This is the final proof which Time and History demand of all those daring to soar high above the earth and their fellows on the fragile wings of human love for God.
This is why this little chapel is the most precious thing we possess. It is so much like a Bethlehem for us. Every worm-eaten board, the palsied doors, the chipping white-wash, the little altar trembling at each step, is eloquent with the memory of Father Judge. Here, on all sides, is the crushing grip of God’s love which bred him for his saintly apostolate.
Here, is his spirit of prayer, in the benches worn thin by the sweat of the early apostolate. Here is his simplicity in the immaculate little altar, pure with the chaste linens for sacrifice, resplendent with the glow of candlelight and kerosene lamps, and his own love. Here is his sacrifice, in the open fireplace blackened with the undisciplined smoke of hastily gathered fat wood. Here is evidence of his prudence. In an age gone mad with hastily gathered riches, he chose to hide himself away, so close to the only true riches. Here is his poverty, in every twisted shingle, every rusty nail, every hole and crack in the wall.
Finger as you will through the souvenirs which he has left behind, this little chapel in which we are celebrating these sacred mysteries, which carries with it more graphically than any other, the touch of his hand, the breath of his spirit, the echo of his voice, the reservoired flood of his love for God which still pours out as a torrential rain into the dry and parched vineyard.”