New ‘Fountain of Grace Grotto’ is created, blessed at Peoria Notre Dame

Father Corey Krengiel, chaplain at Peoria Notre Dame High School, sprinkles holy water in blessing the new Fountain of Grace Grotto, "a little home for Our Lady." The May 8 celebration included reconsecrating the school to Our Lady. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Peoria Notre Dame High School was once again set aside for God’s purposes as the school community celebrated the dedication and blessing of the new Fountain of Grace Grotto. The ceremony, which took place on May 8, included reconsecrating the school to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Father Corey Krengiel, chaplain, said that by consecrating Peoria Notre Dame to Mary, it becomes something more than a school.

Campus minister Ryan Mann leads the rosary procession to the new Fountain of Grace Grotto at Peoria Notre Dame High School on May 8. Carrying the statue are sophomores Andrew Timmons, Michael McLaughlin, and Joaquin Hoeft, and junior Scott Anderson. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“It’s a meeting place for God and souls, a place where students themselves become something more,” he said. “They become other Christs — other Christs in the world, who live in God and are prepared to bring his saving message far and wide to a world that needs it.”

He added that he believes — as many gathered for the blessing of the grotto probably did — that the best years of Peoria Notre Dame are yet to come.

“Ever ancient, ever new, the Lord continues to pour out his power upon this school, to use it for his holy purposes,” Father Krengiel said.


Before the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, purchased from Italy, was enthroned in the grotto, it was blessed and then carried around the school by sophomores Andrew Timmons, Michael McLaughlin and Joaquin Hoeft, and junior Scott Anderson. The Glorious Mysteries of the rosary were prayed during the procession, and a reflection written by Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, who graduated from Spalding Institute in 1913, was read at the beginning of each new decade.

Sister Sara Kowal, SCTJM, principal, asked those who took part in the procession to imagine that they were entrusting everyone at Peoria Notre Dame — students, staff, faculty, and families past, present and future — to Mary’s intercession as they circled the school.

Sister Lucia Maria Sol, SCTJM, and Sister Sara Kowal, SCTJM, carry the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes to her “little home” in the Fountain of Grace Grotto on May 8. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“We are opening for her just a little home, her little area of the school, so she can manifest her maternal love to each one of us here,” she said of the Fountain of Grace Grotto they would find near the library patio on the east side of the school.

The grotto is meant to remind people of the grotto in Lourdes, France, where Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.

True to its inspiration, the prayer space eventually will feature a fountain. Lights will also be installed for nighttime visits.


Planning for the Marian grotto, which was the vision of Sister Sara, started two years ago. Cindy Dermody, director of advancement at Peoria Notre Dame, reached out to people to see if they would support the project and a positive response came in the form of donations and prayers, according to Sister Sara.

Among the prayers pledged were 100 rosaries and 1,000 Memorares over 100 days, starting with the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, Feb. 11, and ending on May 8, the birthday of Fulton Sheen. The grotto bears a sign with one of his quotes: “The Blessed Mother understands our cries and worries and knows them better than we know ourselves.”

A quote from Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is prominent on a wall of the new grotto at Peoria Notre Dame. The famed media pioneer, author, and school alumnus is a 1913 graduate of Spalding Institute. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

The dedication plaque notes that Sheen had been to Lourdes more than 30 times and had a great devotion to Mary, especially under her title of Our Lady of Lourdes. On hand for the celebration were Dolores Sheen, his niece, and Paul Cunningham, his great-nephew.

Sister Sara explained that even when she was tempted to doubt the expenditure for the grotto because the school was in need of improvements, the Lord assisted as if to say, “Put me first. Give my mother her place in your school and I will provide everything else you need.”

“On a very practical level, we are going to do more in the building this summer than we anticipated being able to do in the fall,” Sister Sara said.

In addition to the donors, who covered the cost for everything, Sister Sara thanked project manager and general contractor Greg Cicciarelli, stone mason Craig Kijanowski, and Dave Rudolph and Doug Simmons for donating their time to get the concrete poured. Due to “difficult” spring weather that did not cooperate with construction, the concrete was sealed the night before the May 8 blessing and dedication.

She also recognized Cindy Dermody for her work.

The prayer of consecration was written by Mother Adela Galindo, foundress of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and had also been used when Peoria Notre Dame was consecrated in 2012.

“I know we are doing something very important today,” Sister Sara said. “In the eyes of many it may not seem like it, but I know it is, and I understand it is, and I believe there is a deep power of grace being unleashed upon this place on this beautiful and special day.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: More photos of the grotto and the blessing event have been posted to The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook.

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