Cresson, Pa. — In 1918, a great influenza epidemic swept over the country and hundreds of thousands of people died.

The Sisters of Mercy at Mount Aloysius helped care for the sick and healing prayers were offered daily at the Grotto of Our Lady.  Miraculously, not one case of the disease developed at the school.

100 years later, thanks to a generous donation by Cynthia Calandra Zack of Cresson, PA, the original Grotto statues are being refurbished and rededicated.

The community is welcomed to participate in a rededication ceremony on February 11, 2019, which was designated World Sick Day by Pope John Paul II. Bishop Mark Bartchak will celebrate mass and offer prayers for healing at the Our Lady of Mercy Chapel on the College’s campus at 3 p.m. A procession from the chapel to the Grotto will take place afterward for the rededication ceremony.

“We are very grateful for the generosity of Ms. Zack and the initiative to help preserve this important piece of Mount Aloysius history,” said Dr. John Mills, president of Mount Aloysius College. “The Grotto is a symbol of the mission, values, and work of the Sisters of Mercy in this community.”

The Grotto was originally built in 1918, a gift of the family of Sr. Hildegard Kemper. After the pandemic abated, the Grotto was rededicated with a plaque that reads: “In memoriam of preservation from the epidemic of 1918-1919 this plaque is gratefully inscribed in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes…by the faculty and pupils of Mount Aloysius Academy,” dated February 11, 1919.

Near the Grotto you will notice one of the few mounting stones that still remain from the late nineteenth century. Such stones originally were used to mount horses. For questions about the event or stories related to prayers offered to Our Lady of Lourdes at the Grotto, please contact Chris Koren, executive director for mission integration and community engagement, at 814-886-6407.

For more details on the amazing history of the Grotto, watch this short video: