Archbishop fulfills pledge, blesses shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes on Mother's Day

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, right, dedicates a new outdoor grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Mother’s Day, May 12. The dedication is the fulfillment of a promise the archbishop made four years ago during the COVID-19 crisis to entrust the Archdiocese of Detroit to the care of Our Lady during the worst days of the pandemic. (Photos by Gabriella Patti | Detroit Catholic)

Four years after promising to build a grotto at start of COVID-19 pandemic, Archbishop Vigneron dedicates shrine outside cathedral

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DETROIT Four years after promising the faithful of southeast Michigan that he would build a grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes as “a perpetual reminder of her care” during the COVID-19 pandemic, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron brought that promise to fulfillment, dedicating the new grotto to the Blessed Virgin Mary on the most fitting of days, Mother’s Day, May 12.

Surrounded by walkable gardens, the outdoor grotto, a small-scale replica of the one built in Lourdes to mark Our Lady's miraculous appearance to St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1858, sits right outside the north wall of the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Detroit's mother church.

Following Sunday Mass, the faithful proceeded outside to the grotto, where the white alabaster statue of Our Lady was crowned with flowers, and Archbishop Vigneron made a prayer of dedication and thanks.

Archbishop Vigneron has been deeply invested in the project, particularly in the design of Our Lady’s face. His dedication to Our Lady of Lourdes dates back to his boyhood, he told Detroit Catholic.
Archbishop Vigneron has been deeply invested in the project, particularly in the design of Our Lady’s face. His dedication to Our Lady of Lourdes dates back to his boyhood, he told Detroit Catholic.
Archbishop Vigneron instructed that the alabaster statue of Our Lady of Lourdes be reflective of St. Bernadette Soubirous's description of her face.
Archbishop Vigneron instructed that the alabaster statue of Our Lady of Lourdes be reflective of St. Bernadette Soubirous's description of her face.

“In the first days of COVID, I made a promise that if possible, because I was placing the whole archdiocese under the protection of Our Lady, I would do my best to see to the construction of this grotto as a way to mark her protection during those difficult times,” Archbishop Vigneron explained. “I am very grateful to all of you who have helped bring about the construction of this grotto, and I am confident that in the generations to come here at the flank of the cathedral, it will be a reminder of the loving care that Our Lady has for all of us in good times and in bad.”

Archbishop Vigneron, who is especially devoted to Our Lady of Lourdes and frequently accompanies the Order of the Knights of Malta on their yearly pilgrimage to the shrine in France, has helped to oversee its construction since he first pledged to build it on March 15, 2020, during the first of many livestreamed Masses at the cathedral during the COVID-19 crisis.

At the time, the archbishop promised to build a shrine “as a lasting token of my gratitude, our gratitude, for the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

“I think it’s very appropriate that we put ourselves under the Blessed Mother’s protection,” Archbishop Vigneron said in 2020. “Lourdes is the place where Jesus sent her to be a missionary and an evangelist of his closeness to us in our times of trial and sickness. He offers us his grace even in difficulties. I think Lourdes epitomizes that message.”

Archbishop Vigneron greets cathedral parishioners after the 11 a.m. Mass, when he dedicated a new grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes.
Archbishop Vigneron greets cathedral parishioners after the 11 a.m. Mass, when he dedicated a new grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes.
A woman prays in front of the newly dedicated grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes outside the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Mother's Day.
A woman prays in front of the newly dedicated grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes outside the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Mother's Day.

In early 2021, the archdiocese began to work with the Catholic Foundation of Michigan to raise funds for the project.

Most of the work on the grotto was completed last fall, Fr. J.J. Mech, rector of the cathedral, told Detroit Catholic. However, two bronze plaques recognizing the story of the grotto and the donors who made it happen were added more recently, as well as the installation of the permanent alabaster statue.

Archbishop Vigneron has been deeply invested in the project, particularly in the design of Our Lady’s face, Fr. Mech explained.

“Her face is designed from a smaller image that the archbishop had, and it’s done with a 3D printer,” Fr. Mech said. “When Bernadette went to the Lourdes shrine in France (after its construction), she said. ‘That is not how I saw Our Lady. That’s not what she looked like.’ So the archbishop provided an image that looked more like what Bernadette saw.”

In early 2021, the archdiocese began to work with the Catholic Foundation of Michigan to raise funds for the project.
In early 2021, the archdiocese began to work with the Catholic Foundation of Michigan to raise funds for the project.
Archbishop Vigneron said the vocation of motherhood demands a certain type of sacrificial love, and Our Lady of Lourdes can be a model and comfort for all mothers.
Archbishop Vigneron said the vocation of motherhood demands a certain type of sacrificial love, and Our Lady of Lourdes can be a model and comfort for all mothers.

The archbishop’s devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes dates back to his boyhood, he told Detroit Catholic following the dedication.

“My devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes really goes back to when I was a boy in Anchorville,” Archbishop Vigneron told Detroit Catholic. “For the centenary of (my) parish, the parishioners in Anchorville put a grotto up to Our Lady of Lourdes, so it has always been part of my growth in the faith."

Archbishop Vigneron said the vocation of motherhood demands a certain type of sacrificial love, and Our Lady of Lourdes can be a model and comfort for all mothers.

“I think Our Lady of Lourdes was sent as a missionary by her son Jesus to tell the world that God is close," Archbishop Vigneron explained. "The Lourdes grotto (in France) was a city dump, so one of the meanings I think for Our Lady's apparition is that God is in the midst of every circumstance. I think mothers bear the sad circumstances so very often of what’s involved with their children, and I think a social message from Our Lady is that God is there and God is strong."



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