The 75th anniversary of the dedication of the Oblate Grotto in San Antonio, Texas, was celebrated with a vigil Mass of the Immaculate Conception by San Antonio’s Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller together with Oblate Bishop Michael PFEIFER, Emeritus of San Angelo, Fr. Leo PEREZ, Director of Grotto Ministries, and Fr. Nino LAJO, Director of Hispanic Ministry at the Grotto.
They were joined by a number of local Oblates as well as Fr. Warren BROWN, General Counsellor, representing the Superior General of the Oblate Congregation. The crowd of pilgrims and friends at the evening Mass were treated to a reception in the Grotto’s “Oblate Spanish Martyrs” Pastoral Center, featuring performances by the Boys Choir of San Luis Potosi, Mexico (which happens to be the Archbishop’s hometown).
The celebration took place 75 years, to the day, after the original dedication. It is a date few will forget: Dec. 7, 1941, a day chiseled into history — the attack on Pearl Harbor. U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt rightly called it a “day of infamy.”
But for a lot of Oblates and friends gathered at the major seminary on “Rattlesnake Hill”, as the location of the Oblate property was once called, it was a day of great celebration. The dream of Fr. Cullen DECKER, first Director of the Missionary League of Mary Immaculate, had finally come to fruition. In the crowd were the Oblate scholastics who for several years had prepared the site. Many community and Church leaders were also there. And, a young Fr. Matt MENGER, then a teenager from a local Catholic school, was there. He remembers the day well and recalls when the crowd slowly became aware of what was happening half a world away in Pearl Harbor.
How the world, the city of San Antonio, the seminary on Rattle Snake Hill have changed since that day!
What the Oblates inaugurated back on December 7, 1941 to be a center of Marian devotion, a place of quiet refuge and prayer for the missions, has grown to be just that. Today, depending on weather, weekends alone find between 1,500 and 1,800 people at the Grotto, for Masses and devotions. And every day — all day — people come there to be at peace and to pray. Every day the intentions of benefactors of world-wide Oblate Missions are prayed for.
As the community of south Texas knows, devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe is also deeply rooted in the religious practice of many Catholics in that part of the country. So, it’s no surprise that the north-facing side of the Grotto, the Hill of Tepeyac with its statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, is as popular as the other side of the Grotto with the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes.
As part of the 75th anniversary of the Grotto, that north side of the Grotto is being expanded. A new Plaza Tepeyac will offer a beautiful and prayerful approach to the little “Hill of Tepeyac”. (By Fr. Bill MORELL in OMI USA, January 2017)