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National Shrine Grotto draws large crowd for 60th anniversary

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By CJ Fairfield | September 8, 2018

Grotto 60

Hundreds of people migrated to the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at Mount St. Mary’s University near Emmitsburg Saturday to pay their respects for the grotto’s 60th anniversary.

A Mass was set to be held at the grotto, but due to heavy rains was moved indoors to St. Mary’s Chapel, just outside the grotto’s entrance.

A packed chapel resulted in people lining the outside perimeter of the building, peering through the chapel’s large glass windows, while others packed into an outside tent. Others stood behind the tent and throughout the grounds holding umbrellas to shield themselves from the heavy rains.

Dignitaries in attendance included Archbishop of Baltimore William E. Lori and university president Timothy Trainor, among others.

Trainor spoke before the Mass reminding people of the national monument that brings 400,000 people to the site annually.

“Here is a place where saints have prayed,” he told the congregation. “When we come to pray at the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes on the campus of Mount St. Mary’s University, we are reminded of our university’s motto, Spes Nostra, for now and always Mary, the mother of God, is truly our hope.”

Rev. John DuBois, the founder of Mount St. Mary’s University, built St. Mary’s Chapel in 1806 on the site of the present Pangborn Memorial Campanile, according to a news release.

Up until 1958, the grotto was a sacred place in a secluded corner of the college campus that was rarely visited by outsiders. That year, the Archdiocese of Baltimore proclaimed the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes as a public oratory and national shrine. The Archdiocese appointed Monsignor Hugh J. Phillips as director and chaplain of the National Shrine Grotto.

Monsignor Phillips also served as president of the university from 1967 to 1971. He retired as a chaplain of the National Shrine Grotto in 2001 and died three years later.

“We’ve been talking about the history for so many years with people but now we feel like we can actually live it again,” said Lori Stewart, director of the grotto. “We just feel the presence of Monsignor Phillips who started this 60 years ago. And to be on the actual day of the feasting of our Mother’s birthday is just fantastic.”

Sept. 8 is the Christian feast day celebrating the birth of the Virgin Mary.

Stewart said the grotto is such a popular attraction because of the peace and serenity it gives people and what it does for them spiritually.

After Mass, food trucks were on site and singing and music were planned, but crowds of people were seen leaving due to the weather.

“I feel so blessed that this many people did come,” she said, adding that she knew of friends who didn’t come because of the rain. “I’m sure many others were planning to come but didn’t, but with this turnout I’m very pleased.”

The rains didn’t deter Silver Spring resident Maria Quinonez, who has been visiting the grotto for 50 years.

“I like to pray and sometimes I come here for the mass service, but I usually go and pray at the grotto,” she said. “It’s amazing because I know that a lot of people are touched by Heaven here.”

Another Silver Spring resident Zenaida Carcedo said she visits about six times a year for the last 20 years.

“The Shrine Grotto means a lot to me,” she said. “It’s very spiritual and it helps with meditation. It’s a personal thing.”

She added that she was coming to the anniversary celebration rain or shine.

“I just love the Virgin Mary,” she said. “I even go to France to go to Lourdes, but this is closer.”

Photo by Bill Green, Frederick News-Post

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