Local Parishes

Hundreds gather to dedicate new Marian grotto at Holy Spirit Parish

Father Andrew Strobl, pastor of Holy Spirit, leads nearly 600 parishioners in prayer during a candlelight dedication of the parish’s new Marian grotto. During the dedication, Father Strobl blessed the grotto and consecrated the parish to Mary. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

by Moira Cullings

OVERLAND PARK — Even 5-year-old Liam Schmitz is delighted by the new Marian grotto at Holy Spirit Parish here.

“Liam said his next birthday party will be at Mary’s grotto,” said his father Jake, “so that’s a good indicator of how excited we are for the amazing things happening here at the parish and school.”

The Schmitz family was among nearly 600 parishioners who gathered at Holy Spirit on Oct. 11 for a candlelight dedication of the parish’s new grotto.

“The candlelight dedication was a way for us to both bless the Marian grotto and consecrate the parish to Our Lady,” said pastor Father Andrew Strobl, “which just meant to entrust the parish in a special way to the Blessed Mother.”

Liam Schmitz, son of Holy Spirit parishioners Emily and Jake Schmitz, prepares to join the candlelight dedication of the new Marian grotto at Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park on Oct. 11. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

The entire evening was a celebration of the Parish Year of Eucharistic Revival.

It began with a free dinner followed by a talk on the Eucharist by Joe Heschmeyer from Catholic Answers for adults, and breakout sessions and activities for children.

Families then came back together for a guided meditation and discussion about sacred art with Sebastian D’Amico before spending time in eucharistic adoration.

The evening culminated with the grotto dedication led by Father Strobl — a moment two years in the making.

The new Marian grotto at Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park was a project two years in the making. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

According to parish manager Shaw Leach, Holy Spirit has had a large statue of the Blessed Mother that sat in a small flower garden outside the church since at least the mid-’90s.

“A couple of years ago,” said Leach, “our youth minister Doug Leikam  mentioned that having a grotto to elevate Mary would be incredible.

“So, we took the idea and ran with it.”

The parish held a Fund-A-Need at its annual gala two years ago for various projects around the grounds, including a new preschool playground, a shelter for its sports field and the grotto.

“Getting the right design and crew to build it took a while,” said Leach. “But we ended up with a new elevated home for our beloved Marian statue.”

Parishioners at Holy Spirit light candles before the dedication of the parish’s new Marian grotto. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

The grotto project began at the beginning of summer.

Leach and Fernando Vazquez, the parish’s head of maintenance and an architect, worked together with its construction crew on the grotto’s design.

Parishioner Matt Logan restored the statue of Mary, Enriquez Construction did the construction work and Speed Fabrication made custom miraculous metal pieces for the grotto’s entrance.

Rosehill Gardens and the McLenon family added the finishing touches to the landscaping around the grotto.

When Father Strobl first saw the finished product, he was thrilled.

“I thought, ‘This is going to be a terrific space that is very clearly for prayer,’” he said.

And he was right.

“I’ve already seen parishioners out there praying,” said Father Strobl, “and it’s been beautiful.

“It’s a great space because it’s right at the front of the church, so after Mass on Sundays, people are out there. For pickup for school, kids are out there with their families.”

Nearly 600 Holy Spirit parishioners turned out for an evening celebrating the Parish Year of Eucharistic Revival, which culminated with a candlelight dedication of the new Marian grotto. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

Schmitz and his family are thankful for spaces like the grotto that enhance their prayer experience.

“The grotto is a great addition to our parish,” he said. “There is an elegance in its simplicity, which helps you focus on what is important.”

For Father Strobl, seeing how eager his parishioners are to get involved in the life of the parish is gratifying.

“As a pastor, it just warms your heart to know that the parish is alive,” he said, “and there’s so much vitality.

“[Parishioners] want to do something beautiful for God. It’s just awesome.”

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage its website, social media channels. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

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