Indian River is a township located in west central Michigan. It has a very small population and is not recognized as a town. Yet more than 325,000 people come to Indian River each year. The Cross in the Woods is a Catholic shrine located in Indian River. The main focus of the shrine is a large wooden cross with the a bronze figure of Christ upon it. This shrine is the second largest crucifix in the world. That is why so many people come to visit. Many come more than once.
The idea for the shrine was inspired by the story of an Algonquin Indian named Kateri Tekakwitha, also known as the Lily of the Mohawks. She was the daughter of a Mohawk chief. She was born in 1656 and became a Christian at some point in her young life. She often worshiped as she walked through the woods. Her favorite devotion was to make a cross out of sticks and place it in a nearby tree. She did this each day as she walked throughout the woods and this is where Kateri would pray that day.
The story of her devotions inspired Father Charles D. Brophy to suggest that the new Indian River Church be named after Kateri in 1946. After the church was built, he was not able to name the church after her because she had not yet been declared a saint. Later, a large wooden cross with the figure of Christ, which is called a crucifix, was erected. The 55 foot high cross was made from a giant Oregon redwood. It was erected in 1954. The seven-ton image of the crucified Jesus was raised into place in 1959. The sculptor Marshall M. Fredericks created it.