New Mary Grotto near the St. Joan of Arc

Lovell+said+he+first+announced+the+creation+of+the+grotto+at+the+Feast+of+the+Immaculate+Conception+of+the+Blessed+Virgin+Mary+on+Dec.+8%2C+2017.
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New Mary Grotto near the St. Joan of Arc

Lovell said he first announced the creation of the grotto at the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Dec. 8, 2017.

Lovell said he first announced the creation of the grotto at the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Dec. 8, 2017.

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Lovell said he first announced the creation of the grotto at the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Dec. 8, 2017.

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Lovell said he first announced the creation of the grotto at the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Dec. 8, 2017.

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Marquette University will hold a ceremony to dedicate the Blessed Virgin Mary Grotto at the St. Joan of Arc Chapel this Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

The grotto is a new addition to University President Michael Lovell’s Sacred Spaces project, which catalogues the many religious spaces and artifacts on campus that signify Marquette’s Catholic and Jesuit identity.

Lovell said he was inspired to have Marquette create a Marian grotto after he completed the Ignatian Colleagues Program, an intensive 18-month experience based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius that integrates the university mission into the way leaders lead, teach and live. 

The program required a final project, which Lovell said ultimately led to the vision for the grotto.

“Throughout my life, Mary has been a steadying guide and a reminder that Jesus is God, but also human like every one of us,” Lovell said. “When we take time for reflection, Mary teaches us so much about simplicity, grace and strength.”

Lovell said he first announced the creation of the grotto at the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Dec. 8, 2017.

He said he is deeply grateful to the benefactors who fully funded the grotto, particularly Geri (Nana) Fotsch and the Fotsch Family, retired staff member Norman Hoffman,  and Chris and Katie Callen.

Derrick Witherington, assistant director of Campus Ministry for liturgical programs said that for Catholics, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is a venerable tradition.

“The grotto symbolizes this connection, giving our Catholic students a place to pray or to light a candle out of devotion to the Mother of God,” Witherington said. “More generally, the grotto provides a place of rest and reflection for anyone who wants to take a break from the hustle and bustle of their busy lives, connecting to something larger than themselves.”

Witherington said the religious history of the grotto began in 1858 when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a teenage girl named Bernadette Soubirous in a small grotto near the village of Lourdes, France. Ever since, the grotto became a place of pilgrimage for people who sought to deepen their connection to Mary.

Because a trip to France was difficult if not impossible for many people, smaller versions of the same Lourdes grotto began to be built all over the world as a way of connecting people to the original grotto in Lourdes, Witherington said.

“Our grotto at Marquette follows in this long tradition and will, it is hoped, become a place of prayer, reflection and meditation for all of our students,” Witherington said.

He said that any space for prayer is always blessed and dedicated in the Catholic Church to symbolically set the place apart and to offer the community the chance to be welcomed into the newly dedicated sacred space.

Claire Stanley, freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences and member of Campus Ministry at the university, said she thinks the grotto is a beautiful symbol to add to the Joan of Arc Chapel area.

“Placing it near the chapel helps to enforce the statue’s and the space’s special sacredness,” Stanley said. “At the heart of campus, it’s important to keep in mind the space’s ability it offers us to feel protected and contemplate in prayer.”

Stanley said it’s especially important to remember Mary’s significance and strength through reflection during the Easter season and the end of the school year.

“As it’s placed in the chapel garden, I think it can strengthen the pillar of faith our campus works to keep up,” Stanley said. “I think it goes beyond the statue itself — the attention and significance it draws will hopefully inspire more people to become involved in Campus Ministry or practice their own faith.”

Witherington said the university is fortunate to have Archbishop Listecki attend the celebration, which helps to connect the event to the local Church here in Milwaukee and the universal Church throughout the world.  

“I look forward to dedicating it on May 1 so that it will serve as a special and sacred place of devotion, inspiration and prayer for Marquette students, faculty, alumni and staff for decades to come,” Lovell said.

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