Our Lady of Lourdes Responds…
By the Missionaries of Saint John the Baptist
Since the subject of building a Grotto into the hillside behind Our Lady of
Lourdes Catholic church in Park Hills has caused some concern in our city, we
hereby provide an ordered response to allay unnecessary fears and correct
various misconceptions. Before addressing the issues raised, however, please
consider these simple principles under which we have been operating.
In buying and renovating our church, we have followed the ordinances laid
down both by the Church and the State. With due diligence, we have consulted
the proper authorities and received all the proper permits to proceed. We
contracted with respected architects and construction contractors. We will do the
same with regard to the construction and operation of our future Grotto. Thus,
we have engaged one of the most well-respected landscape architects, Vivian
Llambi & Associates, in our area.
In renovating our church, great care was given to each and every part. Much
effort, time and funds were expended to make the church presentable and
beautiful, pleasing to all who have taken the time to visit. Much of this was
accomplished in keeping with the present architecture of the church. We did not
try to make it something other than what it was—English neo-gothic. Again, this
same care and effort will be spent in the construction of our future Grotto, all to
make it fit its location and purpose.
Now to the issues that have been raised. We have found them to be essentially
eight in number.
Concerns have been cited at City Council meetings, in emails, and on social
media sites regarding a potential increase in traffic stemming from the Grotto. At
least three reasons have been given for this increase of traffic: (i) There will be an
apparition of some kind causing many to flock to Park Hills, flood the streets
with cars and even buses. Previous events in Cold Spring, KY, were given as a
precedent. (ii) A miracle will take place. (iii) The Missionaries of Saint John the
Baptist (MSJB) will promote this Grotto as a pilgrimage site.
Will there be an “apparition”?
To our knowledge, there are no approved apparitions at any established Grotto
world-wide. As was rightly pointed out in the City Council meeting of Feb 27,
2017, wherein the Grotto was first discussed, the events in Cold Spring (1995)
had nothing to do with the Grotto near the church.
Additionally, the MSJB, being very traditional-minded, are very reluctant to
promote any apparition without the Church’s complete approval, something that
can take decades to acquire.
Will there be a “miracle”?
As for the miracle, we are encouraged that people think one may actually happen
at our future Grotto. For the record, although there are frequent miracles in
Lourdes, France (someone in Park Hills recently approached us explaining how
his son was cured miraculously of a terminal illness at Lourdes, France), to
authenticate such a miracle takes many years. Again, the MSJB are very reluctant
to say anything is an authentic miracle before due process, appropriate analysis
and investigation by the Church authorities and the passage of time. Please
consider viewing this short explanation of the work required behind declaring a
miracle at Lourdes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgVnjJLarwk
Once again, we are completely unaware of any Grotto like ours (one built in
imitation of the Grotto in Lourdes, France) located anywhere in the world as
being a site of apparitions or miracles. Instead, these little imitation caves were
constructed to be places of prayer… places where people can light a candle and
sit in prayerful silence, gazing upon Our Lady in the Niche, calling to mind that
special place of miracles in Southern France. Please, let’s not confuse the two.
And, what is more, anyone who knows the MSJB will dismiss out of hand as
calumny any rumor or talk that we would manufacture miracles or apparitions
of any kind.
Will there be an increase of traffic?
There are no special “Grotto events” planned or foreseen that would conflict
with the normal use of the church. Thus, it is not envisioned that any traffic
generated by the Grotto would exceed that of the normal Sunday or Holy Day
Masses at Our Lady of Lourdes.
We called one of the popular shrines of Our Lady in the USA—Our Lady of
Snows in Belleview, IL—located not far off I-64 (https://snows.org/sacred-
spaces/lourdes-grotto/ ). Among many other things of interest, they have a large
and realistic Lourdes Grotto. Apart from certain special events, the normal daily
traffic of pilgrims to this Grotto is estimated to be about 50 persons. Additionally,
please consider viewing the live feed of the b eautiful Grotto at Our Lady of
Lourdes in Miami, Florida. You will see a peaceful, prayerful spot with very
Will there be a parking problem?
The MSJB have purchased an additional lot (1111 Amsterdam Road) next to the
Rectory to expand our parking. This will address multiple issues: it will provide
increased parking for our Sunday Mass celebrations and provide additional
parking for anyone wishing to pray in the Grotto.
In conclusion, our objective here is simply to provide a place for people to pray
in peace… to light a candle and enjoy the sound of water flowing, beautiful
scenery in an environment that elevates the mind and heart to things eternal.
It has been said the proposed Grotto is too big for its location.
Will the structure be big and out of place?
As is the case with the traffic and parking issue, the imagination has some
carried away with huge structures that are not according to reality. All that is
planned is in proportion to the church, the hill, and the parking lot. In a word, it
fits in its proposed location. The proposed Grotto is approximately six parking
spaces wide, recessed into the hillside and park-like in setting.
A similar example might be seen here in this Grotto of Belfast, Ireland. Notice
how the existing Grotto (which is a little larger in size as compared to the one we
are proposing) is not out of proportion to the church or its environment when
viewed from the street. This will be our goal as well. What is more, due to the
arrangement of Amsterdam Road, the church and the rectory buildings, those
driving up or down the street will only have a brief window wherein the Grotto
will become visible.