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St. Jude's Chapel of Hope

We just got our March 2005 issue of Grit: Stories of American Life & Traditions. Most people remember it as the cheap little newspaper that boys sold for a nickel as a way to earn gum money. It's still around and wholesome as ever. Kinda like watching the Lawrence Welk Show.

The March 2005 issue contains a story about St. Jude's Chapel of Hope in Spring Creek, North Carolina. We'd never heard of it. Nestled in a mountain valley beside a peaceful stream just off Highway 63 on the Tennessee state line, the little chapel's pews hold just eight people. It's 12 by 14 feet, is made of cedar, and stands on a foundation of local mountain stone. Its steeple rises 30 feet into the air. It's opened 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for anyone who wants a quiet place to meditate and pray.

It was built by Beverly Barutio, a woman dying of cancer who had ceased futile and painful treatments in the early 1980s. Instead, she relied on prayers to St. Jude, patron saint of lost causes. Her cancer, which had been in an advanced stage, went into complete remission and she remained free of it for 19 years until her death in 2002. During her illness, she told God that she would build a chapel to serve as a symbol of faith and hope. As she continued to beat the cancer, she felt compelled to fulfill her promise and started building in 1990 with the help of two hired hands. By the spring of 1991, it was complete, and hundreds have visited it over the course of the last dozen or so years. That's a nice number of visitors, but a strong indicator that a stop there wouldn't be ruined by excessive tourists.