For The Catholic Messenger
Members of Ss. Mary & Patrick Parish in West Burlington recently celebrated Mass in a very special place, Our Lady of Grace Grotto, which is located on church property.
Approximately 200 people attended the Mass on Aug. 15 at which Father David Steinle, the pastor, presided. The many shady areas in the grotto allowed people to take refuge from the heat while light breezes provided some cooling relief. An ice cream social was held in the parish center following Mass.
Among the people attending Mass was a couple visiting from Spain. In talking with one of the parishioners, the couple expressed excitement at attending an outdoor Mass in such a beautiful setting.
Construction of the grotto began in the spring of 1929 by two Benedictine priests, Fathers M.J. Kaufman and Damian Lavery, the designer. Built during the Great Depression with all-volunteer labor, the grotto was completed and dedicated July 25, 1931. Rocks and geodes for the grotto came from every state and from foreign nations, including the Holy Land. Inside the grotto, the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is centered between two large seashells, one from the Atlantic Ocean and one from the Pacific Ocean.
During the 1950s and 1960s the grotto went through a period of neglect, becoming surrounded by overgrown weeds and trees. In the 1970s, then-pastor Father Jack Denning organized a clean-up and refurbishing effort. At that time the grotto was restored to its original beauty. A rededication Mass was held Aug. 15, 1974, with the main celebrant being the late Bishop Gerald O’Keefe.
The grotto is currently maintained by a large group of parishioners who volunteer their time and talents to plant flowers, weed and do general maintenance. Other features in the grotto area include a pond with waterfall which was reconstructed in 1999. A pathway lined with the Stations of the Cross was added in 2002. Our Lady of Grace Grotto has had visitors from all over the United States and from other countries. The grotto’s admirers say it is a place of prayer, peace and beauty to inspire all.
All are welcome to visit the grotto; admission is free.