Parish builds Marian grotto - Catholic Courier

Parish builds Marian grotto

During the past few months, parishioners and clergy have come together at St. Dominic’s Parish in Shortsville to improve the parish grounds. One of the more obvious changes is the addition of a new Marian grotto in the grassy lot adjacent to the church, which was built in memory of a former parishioner.

Parishioners Daniel and Teresa Gersbach donated money for the grotto in memory of Daniel’s grandmother, Margaret, who died in 2003, according to Father John Gagnier, pastor. The grotto was built around a statue of Mary already on the church grounds, he said.

“Daniel and Teresa had this idea of making a grotto out of it,” and the parish ran with the idea, Father Gagnier said.

“(Margaret) was very devoted to the rosary and had a devotion to the Blessed Mother,” Teresa said.

The Gersbachs purchased the materials needed to build the grotto, and another parishioner, Marc Schaertl, donated his labor. Schaertl, a mason, worked on the stone grotto in his spare time, sometimes bringing his 4-year-old son, Nicholas. Over the summer, Nicholas laid the grotto’s final stone in place.

“Marc is just a superb mason,” Father Gagnier said. Schaertl also planned to construct two brick flower boxes to be placed on either side of the grotto, and that project should be done by late October, Father Gagnier added.

The grotto was built from light-colored stones, which nicely complement the exteriors of the church and parish center, he added. A spotlight was installed in front of the grotto to illuminate the Marian scene at night, and another was installed behind the grotto. The second spotlight shines on a new flag and flagpole, which were donated by another parish family, Father Gagnier said.

In July 2003, parishioner Kelly McMillin’s husband, Heath, was killed while serving in Iraq with the Army National Guard. Kelly McMillin’s parents, Francis and Sally Crowley, donated the new flagpole in memory of their son-in-law, Father Gagnier said. The old flagpole had been located behind where the new grotto now stands, but Father Gagnier decided to install the new flagpole between the grotto and the church, where it’s lit by the second spotlight.

“I designed it in such a way that the light would be hiding behind the grotto and hit the flag and the (bell) tower. Before it was almost right behind the grotto. Now it kind of stands on it’s own,” Father Gagnier said.

The church’s bell tower has also undergone some changes of its own in recent months. Shortly before celebrating the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood in 2003, Father Gagnier had the large cross that sits atop the bell tower removed and paid to have it gilded with gold leaf. With the help of a truck with a large boom, the newly gilded cross was placed back atop the bell tower immediately following the parish’s organ-dedication ceremony on April 27, 2003.

“It’s way up there and it shines,” Father Gagnier said.

Parishioner George Attenboro volunteered his time to complete the electrical work for the spotlights and a new, lighted parish sign. All three are controlled by electronic sensors, automatically coming on at dusk and shutting off at midnight, Father Gagnier said. Money from the parish’s Memorial Fund was used to buy six evergreen trees, which were planted near the grotto.

St. Dominic’s also recently received a portion of the parish’s Partners In Faith returns and has started a project aimed at improving the rear entrance to the parish center. Using those funds, a walkway will be extended from that entrance, windows will be installed in the door and a sheltering canopy will be placed over the door. Schaertl will build the two stone-covered steel pillars used to hold up the canopy, Father Gagnier said.

Parishioners so far have reacted positively to the changes on St. Dominic’s campus, Father Gagnier said.

“They really like the way things are looking out here,” he said.

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