Janis Burns-Buyarski

Diocese of Juneau, Alaska

Janis Burns-Buyarski is a convert to the Catholic faith who was drawn to the Shrine of St. Therese in Juneau, Alaska, more than 20 years ago. The Shrine is dedicated to St. Therese of Lisieux, the patron saint of Alaska, missionaries, and the Diocese of Juneau. A place of immense natural beauty and a palpable spiritual presence, the Shrine lit a flame Janis felt compelled to share.


A forester by training, Janis has an innate love of the outdoors and a heart for a mission. With 45 acres on the shores of Alaska’s inside passage, the Shrine offered an opportunity for her to share her skills. In addition to pulling weeds and planting flowers, she’s done much more. Through her efforts, the National Shrine of St. Therese features biblical gardens, Marian gardens, an Old Testament garden, a resurrection garden, a spectacular labyrinth and a rosary trail adorned with shrubbery and flowers expressing the mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary.


Like the monks and nuns of old, Janis uses plants to tell the story of God and His love for us in sending His only Son to bring us back to Him. It is said that the splendor, peace and tranquility of the holy ground opens hearts and minds to Jesus’ presence.


Juneau has approximately one million visitors each year, most of them cruise ship travelers. An estimated 20,000 travelers from around the world visit the Shrine annually and marvel at the gardens and the amazing church built more than 80 years ago. Nature’s beauty and Janis’ hand bring many to tears and help the weary to find peace.


On October 1, 2016, the Shrine of St. Therese became a national shrine. At that time the Bishop of Juneau, Edward Burns, thanked the Conference of Bishops for the recognition and stated, “This is a place of spiritual refuge for people of all faiths and nations – a place where people hear the call of Jesus to ‘come with me by yourself to a quiet place and rest.’ Much of the beauty lies in the gardens that were in large part envisioned and designed by Janis.


Janis says the process of imagining and creating a Faith, Hope and Love garden involved a great deal of prayer. For Lent, she heard a small, still voice within her invite her to pray to know the deepest desire of her heart. She sought guidance for what the garden was supposed to look like. When an answer came after seven long weeks of prayer it was simple, profound and life changing, she says. “When in doubt about God’s plans for your life, pray for the wisdom to know the deepest desires of your heart.”


Janis said, “This is my love story. I fell in love with the Shrine and its patron, St. Therese, the little flower of Jesus. In reading the Story of a Soul, I found a mentor for my Catholic journey and came to understand that ‘little things done with great love’ are pleasing to God.”

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