Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 18, 2004
Our Lady of Peace Grotto blessed
Enoch faithful craft spiritual grotto honouring Virgin Mary
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Soft candlelight flickered over the stone grotto devoted to the Virgin Mary. Yet the circular medicine wheel design reflected aboriginal spirituality and promised a place of prayer for the solitary soul.
It was the fall evening of Oct. 7 and Mass had been said at Our Lady of Mercy Parish at Enoch. Seven drummers heralded in the gathering before Father Alex Carrier led the more than 100 candle-carrying worshippers in the rosary and the blessing of the completed Our Lady of Peace grotto.
And with the blessing, a dream of the late Father John Brayley finally came true.
Devotion to Mary
"Native people have always had a strong devotion to Mary," Carrier said in an interview. "I believe Father Brayley wanted a place for people to come and pray privately without necessarily having to go into the church."
The plan is for the grotto to serve the community rather than become a pilgrimage site. Carrier said the community banded together by donating their time along with thousands of stones and their love for Mary is woven into the mortar.
The circular medicine wheel design depicts the significance of the number four in aboriginal life. The spokes of the wheel symbolize the four seasons, four directions, and the four elements of earth, wind, water and fire.
Red, white, black and yellow are the four colours of the wheel representing the races of the world.
The wheel is endless, and Carrier referenced that aspect in his homily as a tribute to Brayley who was a great advocate of peace.
If we are working for peace, the work is never finished, he said.
Three lighted statues of the Sacred Heart, St. Anne and Our Lady of Fatima, in three tepees sit atop the solid stone structure. The tepees symbolize the Holy Trinity.
While the structure and grounds are not yet finished, Carrier blessed the grotto on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
"One aspect of the grotto will be memorial trees," he said. "Families can purchase a tree and plant it in memory of loved ones they lost. The trees will become part of the landscaping. We have quite a few names of people who are willing to do this.
"For myself, I will purchase one for the missionaries who served here, and for my own family."
Carrier's objective is to seed the site before winter arrives so that a blanket of green grass will emerge next spring.
"I can't speak for other pastors why it took so long, but I do know the church burned so I think the focus was on building and maintaining the new church.
"When I came in January 2003, the proposition to build the grotto was brought up. The design is Father Andrzej Stendzina's, who is now at St. Albert Parish. I make no great claim other than being a motor that helped make it go a little bit," he said.
The grotto is made of natural materials on band land allocated to Our Lady of Mercy. When the decision was made to get the project going, people started bringing stones. Children even gathered stones and carried them to their schools.
Several truckloads were then brought in and stockpiled near the church.
Angela Andrejczuk helped coordinate the community's effort. She said each stone has a significant meaning.
"Sometimes while I was driving home, I'd see people working on the grotto, piling rocks. It was incredible to see so much sacrifice.
"The three statues are valued at about $3,000 apiece and they were donated anonymously. Nobody knows who did it."
Elder feels safe now
Other parishioners told Andrejczuk that an old elder thanked them for building the grotto because he now felt safe.
"Father Alex has had tremendous leadership in this project. I think that is important for people to know. And Father Andrzej wanted the placing of each stone to symbolize leaving behind the crosses we all bear."
He wanted people to free themselves of their troubles by putting them into a holy shrine as a moral fibre to strengthen the structure and the community.
"As pastor, my main job is to form community and to be of service," Carrier said. "We also empower people to do things. When people feel empowered, they feel they are much more a part of the community and the parish."
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