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Notre Dame spends summer, fall renovating Grotto

NOW: Notre Dame spends summer, fall renovating Grotto

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- As one of the holiest spots on the University of Notre Dame’s campus, the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes attracts thousands of students, faculty, and visitors every year. 

“No matter what time of day, I don’t think I’ve ever been alone,” said Holy Cross Priest and Notre Dame Professor Father Austin Collins. 

Each of them praying or lighting candles or even just taking pictures of the famous shrine. 

“It’s a place of pilgrimage for not only the congregation of Holy Cross, the Notre Dame family, but for so many people, especially on football weekends,” said Collins. 

Collins says despite the university doing its best to make the Grotto look great 365 days a year, all of the visitors started to take its toll on the sacred space. 

“It looked like an old parking lot,” said Collins. “The benches were crooked, and it just showed its wear and tear.” 

So earlier this year when an anonymous donor offered to pay for renovations, like new pavement, to the sacred space, the university wasted no time. 

“It was everything from re-landscaping to restoring the artwork, both the statues and the fountain,” said Collins. “All of the pavement was redone.”

Notre Dame has not disclosed the donation’s amount but says the donor gifted it in honor of Rita and John Affleck-Graves. John served as the university’s executive vice president for 15 years. 

Collins says it’s the most extensive beautification project to the Grotto since it was built in the 1890s.

Construction shut down parts of the Grotto from June until August and crews finished the final touches this past fall. 

“People definitely notice it,” said Collins. 

Collins is hopeful the new and improved Grotto allows for a deeper, spiritual connection. 

“It’s a place of quiet, it’s a place to pray and it’s just one of the most special places on this campus, if not the most special place,” said Collins. “Some people might think it’s the football stadium, but come here on a football Saturday and they’re lined up to light candles here.”

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