The Shroud of Turin is displayed at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, in 2015. St. Isidore’s parish in Ottawa will host the Man of the Shroud exhibit, with a replica of the Shroud, during Passion week. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Upcoming Shroud of Turin exhibit in Ottawa is a labour of love

By 
  • March 25, 2017

OTTAWA – When Janice O’Dacre’s parish priest asked last October if she and her husband Allan would chair a team organizing the Man of the Shroud exhibit at their parish April 4-11, she hesitated.

“I was very nervous,” she said. “I immediately knew this was something big.”

She told Fr. Virgil Amirthakumar of St. Isidore’s parish in Kanata, outside Ottawa, she would pray to discern what God wanted.

The exhibit, expected to draw thousands to St. Isidore’s during Passion Week, includes a linen life-sized replica of the famous Shroud of Turin which many believe is the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.

O’Dacre and her husband were both retired after busy careers — she in education, he as a software engineer and manager. She wasn’t sure she was ready to take on the project because she knew doing so could become all-consuming. “Whenever I commit, when I say ‘yes,’ I’m all in,” she said.

After receiving the request, O’Dacre said she went to Mass and asked the Holy Spirit to guide her. She had arrived a little early and the choir was practising a hymn they had never sung at the parish before.

When she heard the lyrics “Do not be afraid for I am with you,” she began to cry. She had her answer. “Okay, Lord, I will do that.”

Her husband immediately agreed and they began seeking volunteers to be team captains

“They presented themselves so readily, it was beautiful how it all came together,” she said. Among the eight captains are a “school communications person” who is working with schools in the diocese; a “group booking captain” to work with groups that want to come. They have a captain for welcoming visitors, for parking and for security. There are about 60 people involved in welcoming and more than a 100 to ensure parking goes smoothly, she said.

“We’ve opened this up to everyone,” she said. “It’s very ecumenical. Anyone can come: all faiths and no faiths and it is free but donations are accepted.”

The display, which was put together by the Vancouver Shroud Association and housed there when it’s not on the road, will be mounted inside the church. Besides the Shroud, the exhibit includes a display of 27 poster-sized museum boards explaining the latest research on the Shroud; replicas of items associated with Christ’s Passion such as the crown of thorns, a crucifixion nail, a Roman scourge and the lance that pierced Christ’s side; and a lecture series featuring two Shroud experts, M. Barrie Schwortz and Phillip Wiebe.

O’Dacre said she hopes Catholics will find special nourishment through the exhibit.

“The Man of the Shroud Exhibit is a spiritual Lenten opportunity for Catholics to ‘come and rest awhile’ before the tabernacle and to be a silent presence before the reposed Real Presence,” she said. “Catholics are invited to be a credible witness to the visitors of all faiths attending the exhibit.”

O’Dacre said Ottawa’s Archbishop Terrence Prendergast is the one who wanted the exhibit brought to Ottawa.

“His Grace is to be commended for saying yes to this exhibit during the 170th anniversary of the founding of our archdiocese, the 150th anniversary of Confederation, the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions and the 70th anniversary of the Marian Congress held in Ottawa in 1947,” said O’Dacre.

Prendergast said he wanted to bring the Vancouver-based exhibit to Ottawa after seeing the real Shroud of Turin during one of the rare times it is publicly displayed in Turin, Italy.

“I had an opportunity to witness this relic which shows forth the mercy of Christ for the world as Jesus gave Himself up to death out of love for all humanity — for me and for you,” he wrote in an email. “It was a moving experience.

“My visit to Turin was enlightened greatly by the explanatory panels and interpretive presentations given by scholars,” he said. “I came to see the complexity of the Shroud’s history.”

The archbishop said he hopes many will come to “learn of this mysterious cloth from long ago that challenges us all to make a decision for Christ.”

More information on the exhibit can be found at www.theshroud.org.

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