In Blue Grass, Our Lady is back, and she’s not alone

Categories: Around the Diocese

Sept. 13, 2013, edition
Submitted by Vera Malone and Hela Platt

Passersby on Wadena County Rd. 23 in Blue Grass aren’t missing Our Lady of Lourdes anymore, and the statue of the Virgin Mary now has some company on the grounds of St. Hubert Parish — St. Bernadette and St. Francis of Assisi, too.

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Parishioners of St. Hubert, Blue Grass, position a statue of St. Bernadette near the parish’s grotto to resemble the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. The large boulder on which St. Bernadette’s statue rests was donated by parishioner Paul Malone.

To close out the Year of Faith, the new statues will be blessed and dedicated Sept. 29 at an event that will include Mass, a potluck dinner and other activities.

The statue of Our Lady of Lourdes replaces one that was deteriorating. The original had been placed in a grotto on church grounds more than 80 years ago.

Discussion at a Christian Mothers/Christian Women’s meeting in spring of 2012 led to the replacement of the statue as well as renewal of the grotto, which is patterned after the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto at Lourdes, France.

The grotto was built in 1931 when Crosier Father John Van den Boer came to Blue Grass as pastor. Rocks of different shapes and formations from farm fields were used to build the unique structure, which may be the largest of any in the St. Cloud Diocese.

Original couldn’t be restored

The original Blessed Virgin statue was removed from the grotto in June 2012 and taken to Mary Ann Uselman’s to be repaired and repainted. She found the statue deteriorated and felt it was unrepairable. The search for a new statue was started the very next day, as a parishioner was going to St. Cloud.

The project was approved by the parish pastoral council and the Christian Mothers/Christian Women were given the task of finding a new statue and raising money to pay for it.

Funding came from bake sales and donations from parish members, former parishioners, friends of the parish and memorials.

Summer travelers who traversed County Rd. 23 and passed the grotto on the way to their summer cabins noticed the missing statue. Some called the parish office and wanted to know if there was a problem and if they could help to get the Blessed Virgin back in the grotto. They gave some of the first donations.

Donations totalled enough to purchase a statue of St. Bernadette, too. Both were manufactured in Italy and ordered from Hurley’s, a Fargo, N.D., religious goods store.

The statues arrived two days after Pope Benedict proclaimed “The Year of Faith.” The statues are made of resin and marble with a fiberglass base and are hand painted.

The statues were carried to the church altar for blessing of the statues by St. Hubert pastor, Father Arlie Sowada. Placing the statues in the church helped determine placement of the statues in the grotto.

Many hands pitched in

The St. Bernadette statue was stored in the church the winter of 2012 due to the need for preparation of the place where the statue would rest in the grotto area. The repair to the lighting and grotto restoration was completed with the expertise of Chuck Winkels and Dan Platt, and a weather-protective coating was sprayed onto the statues by Eugene and Eileen Malone.

The statue of Our Lady of Lourdes was placed in the grotto in early November of 2012 by Gene and Jack Kern, Adam Kern, Henry Erickson (three generations of the Clem Kern family), Paul Malone and Dan Platt.

A large boulder donated by Paul Malone was placed in the grotto area in the spring of 2013, and other landscaping done by Chuck Winkels, Paul Malone, Dan Platt, Larry Malone, Tom Kern, Duane Kern, Ed Schleder and Bob Steinbach.

Placement and angle in which St. Bernadette would sit on the rock was done with the assistance of Ed and Joanne Schleder, Eugene and Eileen Malone as well as Vera Malone and Lela Platt.

St. Bernadette was placed in her final resting place July 24.

Other rocks “with character” were supplied by St. Hubert parishioners to complete the landscaping.

Today the grotto at St. Hubert Parish makes one feel like they have made a trip to France visiting the original shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, according to some.

At the time donations were made for the statues, additional contributions were received for a statue of St. Francis of Assisi to be placed in the prayer garden on the church grounds.

With this spring’s election of Pope Francis, it seemed especially important to purchase the statue of St. Francis as soon as possible.

A life-size statue was found at Hurley’s Religious Store at a reduced price. This statue is made of aluminum and resin and is weather resistant.

The St. Francis image was placed on a large flat rock provided by Dan Malone.