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Lourdes national shrine in Ohio marks 150 years since Mary appeared to St. Bernadette

By Wendy A. Hoke
April 30th, 2008
Catholic Universe Bulletin (www.catholicuniversebulletin.org)

EUCLID, OH (Catholic Universe Bulletin) - When Vincent Mancuso was 10 years old he was visiting Little Italy for the Feast of the Assumption when someone accidentally shoved him. He fell and the pair of scissors in his hand pierced his right eye, leaving him blind.

The next month, his parents took him to Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in Euclid for the annual closing of the grotto Mass. “My mother told me, ‘Wash your eye with the water.’ And so I did. When we got home I said, ‘Ma, Pa, I can see.’ They didn’t believe me. But when they took me to the doctor they learned that I could see,” says Mancuso, who turned 90 this month.

Over the next 80 years, that right eye has suffered from a detached retina and cataracts, but he still has vision. “Our Lady has always pulled me through,” he says.

Sister Rochelle Guertal, of the Sisters of the Most Holy Trinity, director of the shrine, says they don’t proclaim any miracles of healing at the shrine, but rather count a number of blessings or graces, much like Mancuso’s. Indeed, an enclosed case on the grounds holds a crutches, braces and glasses no longer needed by those who were “healed.”

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in France, where the Blessed Mother appeared in a series of apparitions in 1858 to a young girl named Bernadette. Euclid is home to the national shrine and is joining in the celebration.

Grotto replica

Situated on top of a hill overlooking Euclid Avenue, the shrine stands today as an oasis of peace and devotion. When in full bloom, stately trees buffer the sound of the traffic below.

After the Civil War, the property was a vineyard, home to “Euclid grapes,” known for their distinctive flavor seasoned by Lake Erie breezes. Julia Harms, who owned the land with her husband, was a devout Catholic who always had a vision of the Blessed Mother on the property. The Sisters of the Good Shepherd would regularly pick grapes at the vineyard, so in 1920 when the Harms children decided to sell the land, the Good Shepherd Sisters took over.

Two years later, while on a trip to the motherhouse in France, the sisters were inspired to build a grotto similar to Lourdes on their site. And they were given a unique treasure from a Dominican priest — a piece of the stone being hewn into a statute of the Blessed Mother on the site where she appeared before Bernadette in Lourdes.

Today, that noted piece of stone is embedded into the rock of the grotto where the water flows over it and into a pool. The treasure makes Cleveland’s shrine unique among others throughout the country, including the grotto at the University of Notre Dame.

Change of hands

Over the years the Sisters of the Good Shepherd diminished in size and by 1952, the Trinitarian Sisters were looking for more property. They found the shrine, were given permission by Archbishop Edward F. Hoban, then bishop of Cleveland, to transfer their novitiate and continue the work of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

Under their supervision the shrine has expanded to accommodate visitors from more than 44 countries and a number of regular devotees.

“Some people are hoping for miracles when they come,” says Sister Guertal. “I explain that sometimes the miracle is acceptance and that can be a bigger miracle than healing.”

More than anything, the shrine gives people an opportunity to silence to noise of modern life and to listen to God. “People come to be open to the Lord through the Blessed Mother. When they do, things happen,” Sister Guertal says.

Mass is held outside in front of the grotto at 9:30 a.m. each Sunday from May through October (weather permitting). Novenas, rosary processions and Stations of the Cross also are prayed regularly. The shrine remains open throughout the year.

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