The grotto in the Saint Francis de Sales Seminary woods recently underwent its first renovation in nearly 40 years. Bishop William P. Callahan will rededicate the grotto on Sept. 12. (Catholic Herald photo by Amy E. Rewolinski)

Bishop William P. Callahan will bless the renovated grotto and lead a rosary on Saturday, Sept. 12 at 2 p.m.

Fr. Donald J. Hying, rector of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary since 2007, said the reconstruction of the grotto was a long time coming.

“Part of it was (that) it had been neglected, it had been vandalized, and just was kind of this barren shell of something that used to be beautiful and spiritual,” he explained. “So, we just thought it was an opportune time to restore it and renew it to what it was originally built to be.”

The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes was built in 1894 by German-born seminarian Paul Dobberstein. While a student at the seminary, he contracted double pneumonia and prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary, saying that if she helped heal him, he would build a grotto in her honor. Eventually he recovered and fulfilled his promise.

The seminary received $8,000 from three donors to do major brick work on the grotto, install a new gate and acquire two new statues, said Fr. Hying. The area was also landscaped and a bench was added.

The project took about a year to complete, from the time of ordering the statues and power washing the inside, redoing the façade, putting up grating, redoing the landscaping and pouring the cement, among other things, according to Fr. Hying.

“It’s a place for prayer,” the priest said. “It’s a beautiful place in the woods just to pray and find peace, and just to be in communion with God and the Blessed Mother.”