A Shrine church is a place of spiritual devotion where people come to renew their faith.
The special devotion at Mary, Queen of the Universe Shrine is related to the Blessed Eucharist. Indeed, the Shrine, standing at the edge of Walt Disney World, represents everything that is Catholic. In addition to the Eucharist, it emphasizes devotion to the Mother of God as one of the God-given gifts enabling us to reach that salvation for which Christ gave us His life on the cross.
When Walt Disney World opened in 1971, the surrounding area was still undeveloped. The advent of the Magic Kingdom (the first theme park opened by the Walt Disney Company in Florida) resulted in an instant tourist boom in the Orlando area. Where once there was wilderness, thousands of visitors now roamed.
It became necessary for the Diocese of Orlando to provide for the spiritual needs of the vast numbers of visiting Catholics. Sometime after the opening of the Magic Kingdom, arrangements were made for Masses to be held in an area hotel.
In the spring of 1975, Bishop Thomas Grady placed Father F. Joseph Harte in charge of the tourist ministry. The hotel Masses were expanded from one hotel to three and, as the number of tourists to Orlando grew, the hotel Mass ministry thrived.
It soon became evident, however, that the hotels would not be able to continue to facilitate the growing numbers. Nor did the atmosphere of a hotel ballroom provide an ideal opportunity for anything other than Mass attendance. It was for that reason property was purchased in 1979 for the building of a facility to care for tourists in the Walt Disney World area.
Because the diocese is consecrated to Mary the Mother of God, it was decided to name the proposed diocesan shrine church Mary, Queen of the Universe. The intention was also to honor Christ the King, to proclaim to the millions passing on I-4 that the kingdom of Christ is present in Central Florida. Monsignor Harte spearheaded the project, committing his considerable vision and energy to its management.
Ground was broken for the Shrine on December 8, 1984. The first phase of the Shrine opened on April 20, 1986, and in November of that year the Papal Nuncio in this country presided at the blessing of the new facility, thus indicating the esteem and blessing of the Holy Father on the work that had begun.