This morning was the dedication of the new grotto. I took several photos, but the others with more people in them blocked too much of the grotto, so I am using this one of Mr. and Mrs. Casarez since the shrine and most of the flowers show.
Everything went beautifully. Here is the story of the grotto from the back of the program with only the identifying names and places left out.
During the years of WWII, with all the young men and some of the young women gone off to serve their country, the parents, wives, children - indeed all of their relatives and friends - worried about their safety. The parishioners made a prayerful promise that if, through the mercy of God and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, they all returned home safely, a grotto would be built in thanksgiving. The war eventually ended and families were reunited. Remarkably, not one of those serving was lost, and so the parishioners bought the beautiful statue you see today, and built a stone grotto between the church and hall, as a place of prayer and remembrance.
In the late ‘40s and early 50's a young girl, Jo Nell XXXXX, from San Antonio, would look forward to the end of the school year, when she would spend happy summers with her grandparents, John and Olga (XXXXX) XXXXX, in XXXXXXX. Jo Nell attended Mass in XXXXXXX with her beloved grandmother Olga, and having a special devotion to the Blessed Mother, would often pray at the grotto. In later years, she married Jack XXXXXXXXXXXX and eventually moved with her husband to Illinois.
Sometime during the ‘60s, the grotto, which apparently had never been inscribed as a memorial, except in the hearts and memories of the people, was demolished and the statue was moved to a place inside the covered entrance to the new parish hall. Soon after that, it was practically forgotten, being out of the way, and it was only some of the parishioners from that time that remembered the statue as a memorial to the XXXXXXX veterans.
In later years Jo Nell would visit the original homestead in XXXXXXX, wanting her family to know their Texas and XXXXXXX roots, and on one such visit lamented to her husband about the loss of the grotto and the obscure location of the statue. In 1988 Mr. XXXX XXXXX bought the homestead and immediately became close friends with the family. There was special bonding in particular with Jo Nell who still continued to visit XXXXXXX regularly with her family. December 2003 brought great sadness to the family and Mr.XXXXX when Jo Nell died suddenly. The family came to XXXXXXX in October 2004 to bury her ashes next to her father's grave in Evergreen Cemetery. It
was then that they visited the Church and Jack mentioned to XXXX how Jo Nell had felt about the loss of the original grotto and how he would like to look into building a new grotto as a memorial to his wife of 46 years, and move the statue back out into the open.
The family asked Mr. XXXXX to design the grotto and he started the process of securing approvals for building it. He also supervised the construction which was done by XXXXXX XXXXXXX Concrete Contractor of XXXXXXX. In August 2005 construction was completed; the statue was treated with special rosins, epoxies and sealers in an effort to restore it to its original appearance and protect it from the elements. Other concrete attributes, specially selected to carry out the simple, classic design of the grotto, were similarly treated. Nothing has been left to chance and even the location of the grotto centered in front of the fanned branches of the tree behind it is part of the overall design. Landscaping and lighting will be added later this year. Mr. XXXXX suggested the granite marker read in tribute, rather than memorial, so that XXXXXXXX veterans, past, present and future, would be included.
The grotto, a gift to our Church and the answer to many hopes and prayers, will become a landmark for XXXXXXX at Immaculate Conception Church for all people to see and appreciate for years to come. It is a lasting and fitting tribute, a place for prayer and meditation, and a thing of beauty for our community.