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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

051717 grottoNew grotto blessed on 75th anniversary of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish May 10

MONROE — Parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes Church marked the parish’s 75th anniversary May 10 with a tribute to their patron as Father Benjamin Roberts, pastor, blessed and dedicated a new Marian grotto.

Hundreds of parishioners braved the heat and the evening sun to sit on the new stone benches surrounding the grotto, situated in a grassy area behind the church, to witness the blessing and sing songs in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“This grotto preaches in the language of beauty, and long after my voice falls silent, the language of beauty will continue to preach here,” Father Benjamin Roberts said during the May 10 ceremony.

He, Father Santiago Mariani, parochial vicar, and Deacon Guillermo Anzola participated in the blessing rite which included a reading from the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth in Luke’s Gospel, prayers of blessing and the sprinkling of holy water.

Father Mariani, who studied at the Pontifical College of North America in Rome, noted, “It’s like a little St. Peter’s, the way the stone benches come out on each side (reminiscent of the colonnade extending out from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome). It’s like the arms of Our Lady extend out to embrace us.”

Deacon Anzola said he hopes the grotto will help increase the faith of parishioners. “The Holy Spirit was in this (effort). The Virgin Mary will be there forever. We will take advantage of this place to increase the faith of our Hispanic community and they will start seeing the Virgin Mary in another way (besides as Our Lady of Guadalupe), to see her as Our Lady of Lourdes and love her as that,” he said.

“This is such a fabulous thing that he (Father Roberts) has done for our church,” said longtime parishioner Donna White. “It turned out really beautiful. You can sit, say a prayer. We love this church. It means so much to us.”

Rosa Gutierrez, parish music director for Spanish services, said, “It’s beautiful!” She performed the Lourdes hymn “Immaculate Mary” with guitarists and a Spanish choir of men, women and children at the ceremony. She remarked that the parish is “blessed with two mothers, Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Lourdes.”

Raul Sontay, a parishioner for the past 15 years, owns Orchid’s Landscaping which built the grotto. He and a team of six men constructed the grotto over the course of three weeks.
“It makes me feel good (to help give this to the church),” Sontay said. “I wanted to do something for everyone to enjoy.

“When you do something, it’s not important how much money you make doing it. The point is how much you love what you are doing. When you do something for love, everything comes out beautiful. The team worked together. Everybody put their love, passion into each stone.”

He said his wife Orquidia gave him the idea to plant lilies around the walkway.

“The grotto project was funded primarily through the parish funds from the ‘Forward in Faith, Hope, and Love’ campaign, as well as donations from several different parish groups and individuals,” Father Roberts noted. “The two statues and the granite for the altar were donated by parishioners.”

In his concluding remarks during the blessing, Father Roberts said, “Long after all of the voices of those of us gathered here fall silent and join the chorus of the praisers in the Kingdom of God, the language of beauty of this grotto will continue to preach the mercy of God, the healing of God and the hope that is ours in God under the protection of Our Lady of Lourdes.

— SueAnn Howell, senior reporter

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