By Axel Vargas-Irlanda
A few times a month freshman Myhka McKinney takes a spiritual breather at the newly renovated Grotto at the northwest corner of campus. McKinney said, “It is a beautiful, reflective, and quiet space where I can escape the stress of my classes and school.”
But that beauty had long been obscured as time and the elements took their toll on the 85-year-old shrine to the Virgin Mary.
Sr. Mary Ann Mueninghoff said,“When it used to rain a lot it would become a mosquito heaven.”
Last year, an anonymous donor gave Dominican $200,000 to refurbish the Grotto. In November Daniel Bulow, director of Physical Plant, and the Dominican maintenance team started work with new stone work, a new water pump, lights, new plants and a brick pathway.
It was opened Oct. 5 for the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto Rededication.
Bulow anticipates continuing maintenance, noting that the plants will continue to grow. “We are not done,” he said.
Although Bulow’s crew improved the Grotto, they remained faithful to the original design. Bulow said: “I’m happy to have kept the Grotto with Dominican’s design. The way the campus was made, I wanted to keep that style. Lewis Hall was made in 1932 and I want to keep that 1932 look.”
Mueninghoff has been a frequent visitor to the Grotto since her own days as a Rosary College student in the late 1960s. She described it as “a quiet space to contemplate, to pray and have good, serious conversations.”
Mueninghoff also enjoyed the nature that the Grotto offered: “There were beautiful families of bunnies, the birds loved to sing around and the deer—if you think they loved being around now, they were the same back then,” she said.
Now that she works at Dominican as the head of Mission Integration, Mueninghoff has been with Dominican for a long time. She loves to see students and people in the Dominican community still visiting the Grotto. “It is sacred ground at Dominican and just is place for anyone to come deal with the joys and challenges of life.” Mueninghoff said.
McKinney is only a few months into her Dominican journey and the Grotto is already a special place for her. McKinney said: “It is a new beginning for my class. I appreciate the value of the school’s history and for me to go to the Grotto now it is a way for me to tribute to the school’s roots.”