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December 20, 2011 > Grotto of Our Lady

Grotto of Our Lady

By Simon Wong
Photos By Simon Wong

Moreau Catholic High School, Hayward, celebrated the blessing and consecration of The Grotto of Our Lady on December 8, 2011, the day of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Grotto is situated in what is known as the Festival Area, akin to a quadrangle bounded by the playing field and school buildings, where students often gather informally and through which they pass as they move around campus.

Formerly the site of the Moreau Festival, which ceased in the early 1990s, the Festival Area has always had a statue of the Blessed Mother but years of exposure to the elements took their toll. The area was earmarked for a facelift that became a grander vision. The Grotto of Our Lady is part of a $20,000 project to create a spiritual retreat for prayer and reflection and will include new landscaping, lighting and enough bench seating to accommodate a class of students.

"The idea of creating a space in honor of Mary arose approximately two years ago," stated Principal Lauren Lek. "Every year, students raise funds through the Student Fundraiser to enhance the academic, social and spiritual life of Moreau. The fruits of their labor in August/September 2011 have contributed to the creation of a retreat garden with the new statue of Mary and will help 11 other projects including interactive white boards, a mobile learning lab of more than 30 iPads, a student art gallery and more. Additionally, the support of generous donors, parents and friends has made the Grotto possible."

Moreau's Grotto of Our Lady is full of symbolism. The sacred space echoes Our Lady of Lourdes in France and the Grotto of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana. It was designed and constructed by Bay Area artisan Arturo Hernandez, Hernandez Landscaping, and his team with input from staff. The on-site work was supported by Tom Alcottt, Moreau's Director of Site Services and the maintenance and custodial staff.

Every element in the design, construction and materials has significance. The Grotto takes the form of a crescent moon which is a sign of fertility, related to life and death. Biblical references use the symbol to highlight cosmic events and divine epiphanies and it is often associated with Mary; it is used in representations of her miraculous conception and birth and appears in depictions of the Assumption of Mary into heaven after her death.

Natural materials, such as rocks, stones, plants and water, were used to construct the Grotto. The rocks and cave-like appearance are redolent of the setting (grotto of Massabieille, near Lourdes) and landscape in which Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year old peasant girl, first saw Mary in 1858. A waterfall to Mary's right represents the River Gave which flows nearby.

On each side of the statue, there are seven steps and six candle holders are fixed to the wall. The steps represent the 14 Stations of the Cross endured by Jesus during his final hours. The candle holders represent the 12 Apostles. The Holy Cross, which is set into the ground before Mary, symbolizes her faith and that of those who pass through Moreau Catholic High School which is dedicated to the legacy of the Congregation of the Holy Cross whose motto is Ave Cruz, Spes Unica (Hail the Cross, Our only Hope).

Mrs. Bernie Puccini (cafeteria/volunteer) and Frosh Cecilia Saenz cut the ribbon before Moreau Chaplain Fr. Tito Bonoan blessed the Grotto.

"Meditation gardens can take many different forms but their primary purpose is always to provide mental, emotional, physical and spiritual benefits. It's a place that offers refuge from a stressful schedule and hectic lifestyle and is a sanctuary where we can rejuvenate our soul, a spot that is conducive to prayer and meditation," explained Bonoan who sprinkled Holy Water, accompanied by with social studies/theology teacher Fr. Cecil Bruce.

Bruce led the student body and guests, who included trustees, parent representatives, staff, volunteers, alumni and friends of Moreau, in the Prayer to Our Lady.

"My heart-felt thanks to all of you... those who led it, built it, prayed for it and supported it, for bringing this to our campus. May God bless us all and may our intentions today invoke the Virgin Mary and bring us closer to our faith and to the meaning of the Christmas season," stated Terry Lee, President, Moreau Catholic High School.

Following the consecration and blessing of the Grotto of Our Lady, the entire school processed to the Main Gym for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception Mass.

For more information, call (510) 881-4300 or visit

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