The Grotto of Lourdes Shrine on the Mountain
The Grotto of Lourdes Shrine on the mountain, situated on top of a hill in the heart of downtown Sudbury, will celebrate the centenary of its founding in August 2007. The original site was conceived and created by Frédéric Romanet du Caillaud , a French immigrant who settled in Sudbury at the turn of the century. To mark this historic occasion the Diocese of Sault Sainte-Marie plans a major re-development of the 5.1 acre site.
The Grotto Shrine represents the Judeo-Christian heritage of western civilization in its lovely garden of trees and flowers. The Shrine complements the city of Sudbury’s famous landmarks: Science Northand Dynamic Earth by providing a platform for reflection on the spiritual dimension of humanity’s place on Earth and the larger questions associated with man’s quest for understanding. The Shrine welcomes all visitors: local, national and international.
The vision for and the purpose of the sanctuary are:
- to demonstrate the Loving Project of God to humanity from the Judeo – Christian point of view. Exposition pieces represent Jesus’ Life, Law, Love and Glory for humanity.
- to use timelines and bulletin boards to show the link between cultural history and His message.
- to invite all major spiritual traditions of the world represented on the Alpha and Omega monument from which flows a Dove of peace to come together to create peace on earth.
- to invite people to find inner peace and moments of reflection thanks to the atmosphere of peace created by the natural beauty of flowers and trees. In addition, the Labyrinth, on the grounds, offers an interactive spiritual journey experience.
- to shelter in the form of a Dome symbolizing the earth as a global village and the earth in the universe. This area provides a secure place for visitors to gather for prayer, celebrations and sharing, as well as, serving as a forum for seminars and conferences on faith and science, faith and culture, faith and ecology, faith and social justice, etc.
- to contribute a major tourist attraction completing the triangle with Science North and Dynamic Earth.
- to attract tourists, who enjoy visiting shrines.
- to create a unique shrine where the focus is on the message of God rather than on a particular saint.
A MAN OF VISION : FRÉDÉRIC ROMANET DU CAILLAUD
Who was Romanet du Caillaud? Where does the Grotto of Lourdes come from?
Frédéric Romanet du Caillaud (1849-1917) of Limoges, France, was the lord of a manor bearing the name Caillaud. It was a common custom of the time to add the place of residence to a person’s last name. Caillaud was a lawyer and owner of a family rug manufacturing business. He was a fervent Catholic, a royalist, and a history buff who had traced France’s origins back to the Celts. He was a traveler with a flair for adventure. He was the intimate of several influential people of his day, among them Bishop Dupanloup, the Bishop of Orléans and the Count of Chambord, a French royalist. Upon his arrival in Canada he met the rector of Laval University and was later photographed with Laurier in 1911 when Laurier visited Sudbury. He was reputedly a competent, cultured and affable man. His interest in Northern and Western Ontario grew out of his reading and and his ownership of mining ventures, especially in nickel and copper. It was in furtherance of his mining interests that he acquired a number of properties on Ramsay Lake. A road that runs along the shore of the Lake is named for him as well as the islands Frédéric and Romanet in Minnow Lake.
Unable to find nickel or copper on his properties, Romanet du Caillaud eventually sold the properties to people interested in settling in the Sudbury area.
Romanet du Caillaud, a fervent Catholic, had a splendid Grotto (which still exists today) built on a section of land he owned at Limoges, which he and his wife dedicated to the Virgin of Lourdes, Regina Galliae, the Queen of Gaulle. In 1907, he had another Grotto built in Sudbury. This Shrine, like the first would be dedicated to the Queen of the Gauls. This latter dedication took place on August 22nd 1907. Why did Romanet insist that these statues be dedicated to the Queen of the Gaulls or to the Queen of Gaulle? His intention was faithfully recorded in his daily journal. He tells of his surprise when he learned that the Jesuit Father Ragaru had made the mistake of naming the Virgin of Lourdes the Queen of France, at the dedication in 1909. Romanet reaffirmed his wish to dedicate the Virgin of Lourdes to the Gauls and not to the French. As a historian, Romanet knew France’s history had begun with the Celts who had occupied a great deal of Europe from Russia to Ireland approximately 2,000 years before Jesus Christ. The Gauls were a Celtic clan. To Romanet’s way of thinking, dedicating the Grotto to the Queen of the Gauls did not limit her veneration only to the French but gave it a wider dimension. He wanted this wider dimension of worship to be evident at the ceremony blessing the Shrine before 400 people on May 30th, 1909 (almost two years after the statue was installed). He made sure that the hymns chosen for the occasion had wide appeal. There were French, English, Italian, Latin (Ave Maris Stella) and Greek hymns. The Grotto has become a place of prayer under the Holy Virgin’s protection and a place where God’s great interventions in the world are remembered: Creation, the Covenant with the Jewish people, the New Covenant with all of mankind and His manifestations throughout the ages especially those involving the Virgin Mary.
Lourdes: the beginning 1907
The Grotto project began with the erection, on August 22nd, 1907 of a statue to the Virgin Mary. This imposing six foot high bronze statue, weighing fifteen hundred pounds, was created at a cost of seven thousand dollars. It is set in an impressive Grotto, twenty feet high and ten feet long.Romanet du Caillaud’s plan was to make the grotto emplacement as attractive as possible to potential visitors. He worked hard to beautify the Shrine spending much time planting flowers, grooming the lawns and creating an accessible pathway and building a solid retaining wall. ‘Romanet’s dream has been realized. Our Lady of Lourdes now keeps her benevolent watch over the City of Sudbury.
WHY BUILD A GROTTO
The people of Sudbury have always been curious as to why Romanet chose to build the Notre-Dame-de Lourdes Grotto in Sudbury. Romanet stressed the reasons for his choice in these words: “I could erect a Grotto of Lourdes at the foot of the cliff facing the center of Elizabeth Street; it is the Holy Virgin who inspired me in the matter and guided me in the negotiations”. These words demonstrate that Romanet intended the Grotto to be a place of prayer and reverence for the Holy Mother.
One hypothesis would have it that the Grotto is a memorial to one of Romanet’s sons. His son Louis died of an infection in 1897. On his deathbed Louis is said to have shown a great interest in the Shrine.
After Louis’ demise, Romanet built a Shrine to Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes on his land, which suggests that the Sudbury Grotto was later built as a replica of the one in France.
Some people do not agree; they are rather of the opinion that the Grotto was built for his wife.It seems that Thérèse de Siorac was gravely ill and that Romanet decided to build the Notre-Dame de Lourdes Shrine as an emblem of his devotion to the Virgin Mary, hoping at the same time that his tribute would contribute to his wife’s recovery.
Others seem to think that Romanet built the Grotto as a form of intercession to the Holy Virgin, hoping that she would help him in his search for gold and nickel in Sudbury. It is important to remember that Romanet was a businessman, expecting to exploit the mineral and natural resources of Sudbury and Northern Ontario. In addition, he was an extremely religious man. It is said that on his daily walks he held a rosary in his hands. It is therefore possible that the building of the Grotto was his way of praising the Virgin while hoping to discover precious minerals. All these assumptions are impossible to prove. The underlying motives for the creation of the Grotto are likely to remain a mystery.
A GROTTO IN GOOD HANDS:
THE DRAGO FAMILY HERITAGE
Over the years many people have formed an attachment to the Grotto . The Drago family in particular have shown a special devotion to the Shrine.
The Dragos, a family of Italian heritage, lived in Sudbury. During his visits to the city Romanet would stay with grandma Gemma, who, like him, spoke five languages. As a result of this special friendship, the family felt a particular responsibility for the Grotto. After Romanet’s passing, the Drago family assured the Shrine’s continued maintenance. Over the years the family expended much effort to this end. Gemma and two of the girls, Rose and Marie, often placed flowers at the feet of the statue of the Virgin. As well they tended the grounds. Indeed, the preservation of the site is largely due to the efforts of the Drago family, since they were the first caretakers after Romanet’s death.
PILGRIMAGE YEARS REVITALIZE THE GROTTO
1950 – 1958
Almost 50 years later, the Grotto became a place of pilgrimage. Alphonse Raymond s.j., who served as the pastor of Ste-Anne’s Parish in 1950, played a vital role in the history of the Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes Grotto. He was born in Verner in 1914, one of a family of eleven children. Upon graduation from Sacré-Coeur College he entered the Jesuit novitiate. In 1940 he was sent to China as a missionary during the second Sino-Japanese War. His presence in China during the conflict resulted in Fr Raymond’s arrest and internment in a Chinese concentration camp. The horrendous treatment and conditions he was forced to endure during his imprisonment were mainly responsible for his subsequent lifelong poor health.
Upon his return to Canada in 1949, Fr. Raymond was assigned to Ste-Anne Parish and was appointed its pastor in 1950. One of the causes most dear to his heart was the Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes Grotto. He helped Omer Nault, the spokesman for the Lacordaire movement, to organize pilgrimages to the Grotto in 1950 and 1952. He was intent on making the Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes Grotto a religious site of great importance for the city. He wanted to rekindle in the Sudbury faith community, the devotion he felt for the Virgin Mary, who had often answered his prayers.
1950 - PILGRIMAGE ORGANIZED BY M. OMER NAULT
The first pilgrimage to the Grotto took place in 1950 thanks to the efforts of Mr. Omer Nault. The first pilgrimage sparked a religious response in the community and in the same year three more pilgrimages were held, each one attracting from five hundred to a thousand pilgrims. On August 15, 1950 parishioners learned from their pastors the good news of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin and Catholics responded by renewing their devotion to the Virgin.
This newly proclaimed dogma and the pilgrimages had some highly beneficial effects that no one had anticipated. For many, one of the results was a renewed interest in the Grotto. Visitors came from the City of Sudbury, as well as visitors and parishioners from the whole Diocese of Sault Ste-Marie whodiscovered the Grotto of Lourdes. The pilgrimages of the 1950’s brought the Grotto to the fore in thefaith community of Sudbury and its environs.
1952 – NOTRE-DAME DU CAP PILGRIMAGE
In 1952 the single most significant pilgrimage in the history of the Grotto took place. This event centered around the visit to the Sudbury Shrine of the statue of Notre-Dame-du-Cap.
To mark this special occasion about ten thousand parishioners from the whole of the Diocese of Sault-Ste-Marie gathered for prayer at the Sudbury Grotto. To welcome the statue of Notre-Dame-du-Cap, extensive excavations had been carried out at the Grotto site. A wide stairway and a concrete base for an imposing altar at the foot of the Grotto cliff face, spotlights to make the Grotto more visible to passers-by at night, and a platform on which the statue of Bernadette would be set up were constructed especially for the celebrations of October 5th.
At the time, the statue was on a four-year pilgrimage throughout Canada and the United States.
The success of the Sudbury pilgrimage was favored by the statue’s miraculous reputation. In 1889, the stones required for the building of the Shrine had to be transported from the other side of a river which habitually froze in January. In 1889 it remained open till March when it was time to transport the stones by water. That was the first miracle. The chapel of Notre-Dame-du-Cap was built and the statue was installed. The river froze to bring the stones across. That same year, the second miracle occurred when three pilgrims visited the statue which had been carved depicting the Virgin with lowered gaze, customary in most statues representing her. To the astonishment of the pilgrims the statue opened its eyes for ten minutes by way of welcome and gazed wide-eyed before the pilgrims.
From then on, tens of thousands of pilgrims continued to stream to Notre-Dame-du-Cap to pay homage to the Virgin Mother. When the famous statue arrived in Sudbury, a local weekly: l’Ami du Peuple, printed a report on the Statue. “Last Sunday the statue arrived in Sudbury accompanied by crowds of the faithful and escorted by hundreds of cars as it entered our city. The procession of thousands of pilgrims was more than six miles long. From the College to the Grotto they proceeded on foot. Ten thousand crammed the streets reciting the rosary and singing hymns to the Madonna. In spite of the strong wind and the unpleasantly cold temperature, there was an outburst of joy and invocations when the Madone du Cap made her triumphal entry into the Grotto site. Nothing had been spared in making this celebration an unprecedented triumph”. Father Raymond commenting on this event from the pulpit, ended his homily with a wish that is now being fulfilled: “We hope that sometime soon, we will be able to show proper devotion to the Virgin Mary, but in a much enhanced setting that is worthy of her and of us”.
1953 – THE ‘FÊTE-DIEU’ PILGRIMAGE
After the Notre-Dame-du-Cap pilgrimage, local pilgrimages continued, especially in the month of May.
These culminated in 1953 with the largest pilgrimage to date on the occasion of the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi on June 7, 1953. On that date, over 10,000 Catholics from the city took part in the procession, not counting the thousands of spectators who followed along behind. The processionand celebration of the Eucharist which followed were organized jointly by the clergy of Sainte-Anne and Christ the King Parishes. This joint celebration of the “Fête-Dieu” marked the first visit to the Grotto by Anglophone Catholics.
From 1954 to 1958 the number of local pilgrimages declined. Catholics were still present at the the Feast of the Assumption in May, and for Lacordaire Circle meetings, but no significant events
occurred until 1958.
1958 – THE BLESSING OF THE WAY OF THE CROSS
AT THE GROTTO
On Sunday afternoon September 14, 1958, the imposing Stations of the Cross, which had just been erected on the Grotto site were ceremoniously blessed by the then Bishop of the Diocese of Sault-Ste-Marie, Mgr Carter. The Ladies of the Sudbury Rosary Club had been working on this project since 1954, organizing suppers, teas, bingos and raffles. Their dream was to purchase solid bronze statues, one meter (38”) in height, to be placed on individual granite blocks on the shrine site. The total cost for the installation was $38,000. A visit to the Stations of the Cross and the Grotto was to be required of people taking part in Villa Loyola retreats. Villa Loyola constructed in 1960 and located on the shore of Long Lake was only a short distance from the Grotto site and made the Stations of the Cross conveniently accessible to all participants. Mgr Carter had the excellent idea of using the ceremony blessing the Stations of the Cross as a propitious occasion for assembling all his priests and their parishioners in the Grotto of Lourdes to celebrate both the centennial of the appearances of the Blessed Virgin in Lourdes and the blessing of the Stations. Thousands of people joined in the celebration, according to newspaper reports.
GROTTO OF LOURDES CRISIS YEARS:
1974 – 1992
In 1974, at the request of le Club-des-Dames-du-Rosaire and of Father Raymond, the membersof the Corporation of the Villa Loyola were invited to take charge of the Grotto site. The Villa Fathers were already overwhelmed by their pastoral responsibilities at the Centre for Christian Spiritual Renewal, the Villa Loyola, and therefore had neither the human nor financial resources to maintain the Grotto. Consequently they recommended that the Grotto site be handed over to the Municipality of Sudbury to be preserved as a historic site, while the Stations of the Cross would be moved elsewhere as the Rosary Club saw fit. Thus, ownership of the stations would remain with the Club.
May 28, 1978. The Ladies of the Rosary Club were still at the helm when they organized a celebration at the Grotto, with the help of a municipal government grant for clean-up. A journalist referred to the historic character of the site saying that it deserved to be more accessible to visitors and additionally suggested the site would benefit from beautification by the addition of flowers and trees.
The Grotto had fallen on hard times and a Northern Life journalist noted in September 1980 that the Site was in deplorable condition: access roads were impassable, broken bottle littered the site, one statue was damaged, the spotlights were not working and various other issues needed addressing. The president of the Rosary Club agreed, but admitted that nothing more could be done about it : “Every time we clean the site, and we have just spent $12,000 on it, there are those who take pleasure in trashing it. People no longer have any respect for private property.”
In 1988, the Knights of Columbus could not bear to see the place in such a condition and took charge: they began to clean up regularly, planted flowers, cleared a blocked access road, they made a car park for visitors and installed lighting in the Grotto, paying the electric bills themselves. The site was coming back to life.
TO OUR LADY OF LOURDES SHRINE
THE KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS AND THE FRIENDS
OF THE GROTTO
It was not until 1992 that the Knights of Columbus definitively took responsibility for maintenance ofthe site. On May 8, for example, the Knights of Columbus, headed by Mr. Ernest Savard, recruited about twenty youths to clean the area around the Grotto and the Stations of the Cross one more time, and agreed to repeat the clean-up in early May of each year. Yet on August 6 of the same year, vandals moved the statue from its base leaving it teetering dangerously against the fence enclosing the Grotto. Some friends, just as stealthily as the vandals, returned the statue to its base. On September 12, 1992, an invitation went out to the Catholic population of the city to attend a grand re-opening ceremony and three hundred faithfully obeyed the call. In the midst of a violent snowstorm that hit Sudbury on December 12, Ernest Savard wanted to make sure that the light was still on in the Grotto. He lost his footing and fell thirty feet on to the street below the Grotto, coming away with multiple bruises but no broken bones. He went home after three days in hospital, saying “The Virgin saved me: it was truly a miracle”.
All these things, the clean-up, the vandalism, the Savard incident, kindled a desire on the part of a
few citizens to do something more lasting. April 27, 1994, saw the founding of the “FRIENDS OF THE GROTTO”, who were nuns, ladies, a Jesuit, and some laymen, with the mandate to promote Marian devotion at the Grotto of Lourdes site. Mgr Plouffe, the Bishop of Sault Ste-Marie, gave the green light to the undertaking and Sister Claudette Marchand was elected president of the group.
On Canada Day July 1, 1994, the citizens of Sudbury were invited to visit the now refurbished
Grotto, and five hundred came. At the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary in the month of October, two hundred people defied the cold to be present. Between June and December, there were 1500 visitors to the site who attended various celebrations six or so, in honor of the Virgin not to mention those who came to the Grotto, even in winter to pray the rosary.
In June, 1995, Sister Claudette noted the following in her report concerning the preceding year and the immediate future; ‘Hundreds of flowers have been planted, especially around the Grotto, and stairs have been built for easy access to the shrine of the Virgin. An exhibition of icons is coming soon, masses will be celebrated on June 18 and 23; after mass on July 1, there will be a LIBEROS show, and there will be a mass to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption on August 15’. During the summer months, three thousand Sudburians came to the Grotto for the recitation of the rosary.
In April, 1996, Mr. Savard, the new president of the Friends of the Grotto and a good friend of Omer Nault, recapped the achievements of the years just past in these words: ‘Since 1993 we have had to spend not less than $150,000 on flowers and new paths, and to make our site more like a park, all this thanks to the help of the business community. During the Christmas holiday season, we invite parents and children to come and see a magnificent Nativity scene on the site’.
On August 8, 1997, the big event of the year was the celebration of the Eucharist by Mgr Paul-AndreDurocher, followed by a concert of vocal music performed by Mgr Durocher himself. After this event a blanket of silence slowly descends on the Grotto, until 2002.
A NEW SITE: THE DIOCESE OF SAULT SAINTE-MARIE,
THE KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS AND THE FRIENDS
OF THE GROTTO BRING A NEW ERA TO
OUR LADY OF LOURDES SHRINE
Responsibility for the site is once again in the hands of the Sault Ste-Marie diocese. A team handpicked by the bishop will bring to the site a universal dimension rather than focusing on devotion to Mary. The renewed site is intended to describe God’s love for humanity as seen through the Judeo-Christian tradition. The site has come to be admired by all who have visited it from the city or elsewhere, thanks to the flower gardens accentuating the impressive monuments.
The Grotto contains about twenty monuments. At the entrance there is an Inukshuk, a symbolic Inuit statue showing the way to go to meet our brothers and sisters. In the middle, there is a powerful spring of water to refresh both body and soul. At the heart of the site, carved on large stones are the Ten Commandments, the commandment to love, the Beatitudes. Round about these monuments are sculptures representing the mysteries of joy, light, sorrow and glory. At the top is a dome symbolizing the Global Village, a Labyrinth symbolizing the road to Jerusalem, ultimately leading to Heaven. On the left is the splendid Ernest Savard pathway leading to the Grotto Shrine and adjacent statue of St. Bernadette Soubiroux, visionary of Mother Mary 18 times, from 1958. Also at the top there are a pulpit and an altar where the Old and New Testaments speak of both the Truth of God and His love through the sacrifice of the Mass. A monument to Peace bears the Alpha and Omega, symbol of the Holy Spirit, which stands for the all-powerful God’s action in the world. This last monument, inaugurated on Sunday October 26, 2006 in the presence of groups representing twelve different religious traditions of the world, is adorned with symbols identifying various faiths.
In the symbolism of the site, it was important to keep in mind the greatness of God both in the smallest things (neutrons) and in the largest things (galaxies). In questioning how the universe functions, one must remember the purpose for which the universe was created. For this reason, there is a symbiosis between Science North (how) and the Grotto’s monuments (why).