A private dedication mass set for Saturday.
A new visitors center at the National Shrine, Grotto at Lourdes at Mount Saint Mary's University is set to open. The facility is 4,000 square feet, and contains administrative offices, a gallery, museum, gift shop and restroom. It's located near the giant statue of Mary, the Mother of Christ. "It wraps around the famous gold, Blessed Mother that people can see from Rt. 15," says Bill Tronolone, the Center's Director.
He says the building has a "spectacular view" of Saint Joseph's Valley. In fact, Tronolone says, some trees were removed to enhance the view. The wood was used for 17 trusses inside the visitors center.
A private dedication mass and blessing is scheduled for Saturday, April 27th at 11:30 AM. It will officially open on Saturday, June 1st.
Tronolone says it started with an idea in 2005, and fundraising that began in 2007. Difficulties emerged when the economy nearly collapsed in 2008, but he says money was secured to construct the center. "Close to 400 families have given to the project, helping us raise a little over $3-million," says Tronolone.
The lead contributor is Richard Miller, a 1977 Mount graduate. Tronolone says Miller was in a vehicle accident, where the car turned over in a remote area. He was left for four hours, but he survived. "From that time on, he felt very, very close to the Blessed Mother. In fact, he went back to the Grotto with his then-girlfriend, and proposed to her at the Grotto. So he has a very, very soft for the Grotto," says Tronolone.
Tronolone says facility is named the Richard and Mary Lee Miller Family Visitors Center.
He says the museum will tell the history of the National Shrine, Grotto at Lourdes, which is oldest known replica of the Shrine at Lourdes in the United States.
The Mount says 400,000 people visit the Shrine each year.
Tronolone says the new center will enable visitors to have a comfortable experience when coming to the Shrine, no matter the weather. "People can come in the wintertime now, walk the Grotto for a little bit, and then come in and spend time in the museum, where in the past they wouldn't have made their way up Mary's Mountain during the cold weather," he says. "We'll have the Saint Bernadette's Shop, a religious shop that people could get artifacts from the National Shrine."
And for those who have traveled a long way, Tronolone says there will be better restrooms. "We've updated the bathrooms. They're very, very nice now. We had an old building people used to have to use," he says.
"We have a glorious National Shrine on our campus here at Mount Saint Mary's University and now we are blessed to welcome visitors with this new, top notch center," says Mount President Tom Powell, in a statement. "The generous gift from the Miller family not only enhances the Grotto's historical landscape, but also makes it a year-round destination for the community."