Our Lady’s Way: The Story of Our Lady of Peace Church & Shrine by Rosemary Alva, released in June, chronicles the rise of this now renown Roman Catholic church and Marian shrine in a most unlikely, commercial intersection in Santa Clara.
Our Lady of Peace thrives at the intersection of Highway 101 and Great America Parkway. Its 32-foot (about three-story-high) stainless steel Shrine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, erected in 1983, catches the eye of drivers enroute to major Silicon Valley destinations.
Mission College, Levi’s Stadium, the Santa Clara Convention and Visitors Center and California’s Great America as well as corporate high rises, shopping complexes, hotels and restaurants are nearby.
However, when the church opened its doors in 1961, it overshadowed pear orchards and fields intersected by dirt roads. The Archdiocese of San Francisco, of which the church was then a part, anticipated that the church would be positioned to serve parishioners in soon-to-come residential neighborhoods.
But the City of Santa Clara changed the zoning of the surrounding orchards to business and industry rather than residential. Our Lady of Peace had either to close its doors or to rethink its mission in the community.
Alva tells how, inspired by the vision of Msgr. John J. Sweeny, pastor from 1969 to 2002, the church kept its doors open and became “a mecca of faith and conversion, a Marian shrine, and an oasis of peace amidst the chaos of a high-tech world.” Now part of the Archdiocese of San Jose, it draws hundreds of thousands of parishioners and visitors — people of all faiths — annually.
“It’s a book of the people of Our Lady of Peace — past and present — and how God has worked in their lives. And through them, the story continues,” said Alva, who autographed books for three hours straight at a July book launch that drew 500 attendees. “It’s a living history.”
Alva began the book in 2015, gathering the testimony of 64 parishioners and every Our Lady of Peace pastor since 1962.
Pastor Rev. Brian Lee Dinkel said that “the book provides for us as a parish and local church located in Silicon Valley — a place and industry that is rapidly changing and progressing — an opportunity to take a good look at where we are at.
“There are many new people who are settling in the area because of work, and the book provides for them some background and an invitation to become part of the history,” continued Dinkel.
The 409-page book is divided into eight chapters with plenty of white space for ease of reading and 144 historical photos. Chapters have historical background followed by personal testimonies.
“[The book] has given us a moment to reflect and count our blessings. The ‘peace’ one experiences here at the parish is a blessing that I hear expressed time and again,” said Dinkel.
“It is not simply freedom from problems or noise, but it is finding order in one’s life through praising, reverencing, and serving God, through prayer and through His Blessed Mother, Mary,” continued Dinkel. “The book recounts the origins and the effects that these two blessings have had upon people’s lives.”
Our Lady’s Way: The Story of Our Lady of Peace Church & Shrine is available through Amazon and at the church bookstore: www.ourladysway.com.
“It was a gift and a privilege to be able to capture the impact that one church and its people can have on so many lives,” said Alva who, over the almost five years of writing the book, was moved to worship with her family at Our Lady of Peace.