Our Lady of Victory offers holiday gift choices

by KIMBERLEE SABSHIN
Thu, Nov 27th 2014 04:00 pm

The gift shop at Our Lady of Victory will again offer a wide variety of religious-themed gifts for any family member or friend who prefers a uniquely inspirational keepsake that does not stray far from the traditional meaning of the spirit of the holiday season. The gift shop is located next to the Father Baker Museum in Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica in Lackawanna.

Selections available for purchase at the OLV gift shop include Bibles, rosaries, crosses, religious-themed books for children and adults, statuettes and medals, including some items from the Holy Land. The shop is open all year, catering to events such as baptisms, children's First Communions, weddings and confirmations. It also features items commemorating Father Nelson Baker and the basilica.

"We have many angel items here in our gift shop, because there are over 1,500 angels here in our basilica," added Joseph Zomeri, the gift shop's director. "For Christmastime, obviously we have many kinds of ornaments, nativity sets, and our angels are even larger around Christmastime. We have a whole section here devoted to Father Baker and Our Lady of Victory. There's a whole section of different items, just of their statues, pictures, rosaries, medals and prayer cards, just for them."

When asked what items the OLV gift shop typically sells many of during the holiday season, Zomeri said the most popular items tend to be medals, bracelets, angels and ornaments. "You wouldn't believe the kinds of ornaments we sell," he added. "Angel ornaments, nativity ornaments, our ornaments, light-up ornaments - it's endless ornaments, to put it that way." While these are some of the more popular ones, rosaries tend to be popular purchases throughout all times of the year, he added.

"It's very heart touching," Denise Wood, the basilica's program director, commented of the Christmas season purchases. "They're shopping something special, and they're basically wanting something that will touch the recipient's heart." Zomeri added that people who come to the gift shop typically want more unique gifts they cannot walk into a mall and buy, items that are more personalized.

"They love when they get a gift from here. We have the boxes and whatnot, saying that it came from here. It means even more, especially to the people they give them to. It's even more of a special item and a lot of people who receive the items are more appreciative of where it came from," Zomeri said.

Wood also said the shop has an Irish and wedding section, both of which are consistently popular with visitors. Zomeri said, surprisingly, the Irish section of the shop sells more items during Christmastime than it does at any other time of the year, including St. Patrick's Day. Although wedding presents are also common buys, they typically wind down into the fall as wedding season ends.

According to Wood, the entire downstairs area of the basilica was renovated in 2009, and the gift shop reopened in October of that year. The shop has been around since the church was built, but before five years ago, it had paled in comparison to what it offers today. "It was just very small, almost outdated, and didn't carry very many gift items. It was mostly smaller items you could find," she added.

In addition to growing the shop's business in recent years, the basilica also features a turnstile between the Father Baker museum and the gift shop, and since Wood handles tours of the building, she is "basically able to monitor how many people come to this gift shop per month." She estimated that roughly 1,500 people come to the shop from the museum each month, not counting those who enter from the church.

In addition to the shop and the museum, OLV also has a children's program on the last Tuesday of the month, and this usually occurs three times each year. Zomeri said the most popular times for these are generally around Christmastime, Valentine's Day and Easter, and one will take place this December. Additionally, a nativity set is raffled off in December, and during another time of the year, a rosary will be raffled off as well. In both instances, customers are entered based on how much they spend.

The OLV gift shop opens daily at 10 a.m, and closes at 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, excluding the three other days. Tuesday hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sundays, it is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. The basilica is open every day from 7 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., with no charge for admission. Guided tours are available every Sunday at 1 and 2 p.m., excluding holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day and Father's Day.

Personal tours may also be arranged from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. throughout the week, with advance notice and scheduling. These last approximately 75 minutes and they may be scheduled at any time, provided they do not occur at the same time as an event such as a Mass, wedding or funeral.

For more information about the gift shop, call 716-828-9433. For more information about tours, contact Denise Wood at 716-828-7517. The basilica is fully wheelchair accessible.

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