The Claretians and St. Jude: A feast to remember

Claretian Fr. James Tort founded The National Shrine of St. Jude

The National Shrine of St. Jude was founded on its present site by a Claretian missionary, the late Father James Tort, C.M.F., pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. Many of Tort’s parishioners were laborers in the nearby steel mills, which were drastically cutting back their work forces early in 1929. The reduction of jobs was an ominous portent of the business depression that began elsewhere in the country with the stock-market crash on Wall Street the following October.

The Claretian pastor saw breadlines being formed in the community. He saw evidence of children being undernourished, and his heart went out to his neighbors—Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Tort prayed for and with his people. He had started construction of a church; but with money extremely scarce, he felt the building project would have to be abandoned.

Tort was devoted to Saint Jude Thaddeus, who was relatively unknown to the general Catholic population at that time. During the Middle Ages, St. Jude was widely venerated, but perhaps because of the confusion between his name and that of the traitor Judas Iscariot he slipped into obscurity, and devotions to him were minimal.

Night after night, however, Tort persevered in his prayers to St. Jude, asking his intercession and promising to erect a shrine in the saint’s honor if the church could be finished. In an effort to lift the spirits of his parishioners, Tort began regular devotions to St. Jude. The first novena honoring the saint was held on Feb. 17, 1929.

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