The grotto at Maternity BVM Parish in Bourbonnais holds a special place for parishioners, but especially on Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

This historic grotto, built more than 100 years ago, stands as a lasting memorial to Mary, when she appeared to young Bernadette in 1858 in Lourdes, France.

“What a gift it’s been to us,” says Fr. Jason Nesbit, CSV, Pastor, “to have such a holy place on the church grounds.”

Br. John Koelzer, CSV, left, poses beside the shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes, after it was completed in 1918

It was Br. John Koelzer, CSV, who began building the grotto in 1915 on church grounds.

Stone by stone, he and men from the parish worked on the project. It took three years to complete and was dedicated — 60 years after Mary’s appearance in Lourdes — to soldiers fighting in World War I.

The grotto continues to draw parishioners of all ages who seek its sacred presence — and in every season. In the fall splendor or amid the beauty of the fallen snow, and especially during annual May crowning ceremonies, Mary continues to radiate peace and comfort to all who seek her intercession.