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Our Lady of Grace Grotto

St. Mary's Church, West Burlington, IA


Our Lady of Grace Grotto

Our Lady of Grace Grotto

Photo taken by Joe Desy
This Rock Garden of Peace sacred place is a Catholic refuge. But you don't have to be of the Catholic faith to soak in the good vibes from this blissful garden.

Our Lady of Grace Grotto, located east of St. Mary's Church in West Burlington, Iowa, was begun in the spring of 1929 by two Benedictine priests, Fr. M. J. Kaufman and Fr. Damian Lavery, the designer. Built during the depression years, many of the creators were unemployed and welcomed something to do. Despite the challenging time of the depression years, it was in hope and faith that the grotto was dedicated by Rev. H.P. Rohlman, Bishop of Davenport (Iowa). The grotto, erected in memory of Our Lady of Grace, was built entirely of donated rocks. Contributions were received from every state and many foreign nations. Many of the rocks came from the Holy Land. Inside the grotto the stature of the Blessed Virgin Mary is flanked by two seashells, one from the Atlantic Ocean and one from the Pacific Ocean. It's domed interior sparkles with the glint of quart crystals found in geodes.

For several years after its completion, the grotto was a tourist attraction. Pastors and parishioners worked to maintain its loveliness. In the fifties and sixties the grotto fell into decay. Trees and shrubs grew so tall that the shrine was no longer visible. The once colorful sunken garden was overgrown with vegetation. Then in 1973 the people of St. Mary's, under the leadership of pastor Fr. Jack Denning, began again. Many volunteer hours were spent hauling away the refuse accumulated during the years of neglect. The crumbled walks and steps were replaced, the ponds repaired, and new electrical and plumbing facilities were installed to replace the old.

On August 15, 1974, the Feast of the Assumption, Most Rev. Gerald O'Keefe, Bishop of Davenport, rededicated the grotto with 700 parishioners and friends celebrating their accomplishment.

Over the years, parishioners have volunteered their efforts to the task of restoration and necessary improvements, including a new fountain and ceramic tile Stations of the Cross. Many of the shrubs have been replaced, perennials have been planted, and mulch and river rocks added as part of a landscaping plan. Continued effort goes toward maintaining the ponds and replacing geodes.

Our Lady of Grace Grotto continues to be one of Iowa's more interesting stops for visitors. It is a garden of peace, inviting people to reflect on their faith.

Text source - St. Mary's Pamphlet

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