By Natalie Nordeen
Class of 2015
SPOKANE, Wash. – The sound of babbling water creates a calming presence as students walk by the new Grotto devoted to Our Lady at Gonzaga University. The Grotto, which was officially dedicated Oct. 20, rests between St. Aloysius Church and College Hall. Passersby walk the short path to the sacred scene, which features a breathtaking landscape, and an elegant marble statue of the Blessed Mother. Gonzaga students, faculty, staff, and alumni – along with members of St. Aloysius Church – all have a new place for prayer and reflection.
The desire to build the Grotto started with Gonzaga Class of 1986 friends and business partners Steve Ossello and Chris Wrolstad. They, in turn, drew inspiration from Ossello’s parents, Guy and Madeline Ossello of Butte, Mont. Guy and Madeline Ossello, whose gift was instrumental to the project, had a powerful spiritual experience with Mary, the Blessed Virgin, while in Medjugorje, Serbia in 2009. Their trip ignited their love and devotion to Our Lady, which eventually inspired the Gonzaga University Grotto.
Steve Ossello and Wrolstad embraced the idea to construct the Grotto for Gonzaga, and met with other classmates this past summer to discuss details. They “took it to a whole new level,” said Steve’s mother, Madeline Ossello. A total of 12 donors joined to make the Grotto a reality.
“Our thought process was this,” Wrolstad said. “Students tend to fall away from the Church a bit. We thought this would also help them in being a reminder as they walk by every day to easily say a prayer and come back to the Lord.”
President Thayne McCulloh and Rev. Frank Case, S.J., Gonzaga’s vice president for mission, presented at the dedication. Father Case blessed the Grotto while Fr. C. Hightower, S.J., director of University Ministry, emceed the event.
The new marble statue of Our Lady, imported from Italy, emanates a comforting presence. Fr. Hightower sees the Grotto as a beautiful space to gather and ask for intercession from Jesus under the protection of Our Lady. He considers the Grotto an important contribution to Gonzaga’s 125th Anniversary theme of “Tradition and Transformation,” saying it exemplifies for all Gonzaga students “the immense power that a mother’s love can have.”
Gonzaga junior Brynn Burke, from Billings, Mont., a member of one of the contributing families, reflects on the Grotto in the short video below:
This slideshow provides a glimpse of the new Grotto project in the final stages of completion. Photos by Rajah Bose.