By Romey J. Romagnoli ’15
With a warm blessing on a chilly autumn afternoon, The Grotto at Siena College was officially opened. The Most Reverend Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, D.D., H ’77, bishop emeritus of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, joined Siena College Chaplain Fr. Larry Anderson, O.F.M. in blessing the gorgeous stone structure during last Sunday’s celebration.
“This grotto will truly be a place of welcome, a place of hope, a place of healing and a place of reconciliation,” Hubbard said.
The Grotto at Siena College is modeled after the famous shrine in Lourdes, France where, in the 19th century, the Blessed Mother appeared to a peasant 14-year-old girl who would later become St. Bernadette. Siena’s grotto incorporates the spirit of the original with a miniature stream and candles sheltered under a stone arch. Br. F. Edward Coughlin, O.F.M., Ph.D., Siena’s interim president, said that the water feature is intended to remind people of the constant need to be refreshed, renewed and cleansed, while the candles symbolize light and the search for truth.
The Grotto at Siena College includes a statue of Mary from the original Siena grotto that was dedicated in 1947 in remembrance of veterans and those who had fallen in World War II, including 36 Siena men who made the supreme sacrifice.
Statues of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi and St. Bernardine of Siena are also included in the new Grotto’s design. “All of these people have evidenced a very important quality in their lives (that) I hope that those who come to this grotto will find in their lives as well, and that is the quality of trust in God’s providence,” Hubbard said.
Former Siena president Fr. Kevin Mullen ’75, O.F.M., Ph.D. returned to campus for the ceremony. Before leaving to become provincial minister of Holy Name Province, Mullen watched the beginning phases of the grotto’s construction. Mullen is optimistic about the positive impact that the new addition to the Siena campus will have on the community.
“Part of my hope for this sacred space is that this will not only heal us inwardly, but help us to go forth and to share that healing with God’s people,” Mullen said. “There’s no better example that could be given to Siena students, to Siena faculty, administrators, staff and alumni, than to be healers and reconcilers in this world."
The creation of this sacred space for prayer, contemplation, healing and peace on the Siena campus has taken 15 years, and could not have been accomplished without the generosity of alumni and friends of the College.
While Siena College students, faculty, staff and administrators can enjoy the peaceful setting as part of their Siena lives, the Grotto is open to the public.
“We do want you to share this location with the members of the community, we picked a beautiful site and created something very, very, special,” said Jack Sise ’75, Esq., Siena’s director of gift planning. “We don't want this to be a secret. It is intended for everyone.”
The Grotto at Siena College is located on Turchi Road directly across from the turf athletic field behind the Fr. Benjamin Kuhn, O.F.M. House.