An inspiring grotto housing the statue of Mary seems only fitting for the backyard of Elizabeth House, a transitional housing program supported by the Diocese which welcomes pregnant and parenting women who need a safe place to live.
Mother Mary is symbolic of womanhood and motherhood and Elizabeth House staff are hopeful that the resilient women who access the house and services provided there will find the grotto to be a place of healing and hope as embodied in Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Dave Curry, who built the grotto with the help of Peter Dugandzic, shared that the project was meaningful to him because the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe holds pro-life significance. He spoke about the hard work of constructing the beautiful brick grotto in the summer heat last year and how it was recently completed.
Dave said that it was “beautiful doing something for Elizabeth House and for Mary”. Dave is a member of the Knights of Columbus Don Bosco Council at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church and built the grotto with the help and support from the Knights of Columbus.
Elizabeth House has capacity to house seven women and their babies. This program offers resources, support, and a safe place for women to start their motherhood journey. Elizabeth House states that through their program courageous mothers are empowered to work towards a transition to independent living as well as pursue the education or job skills training necessary to help set the foundation for a bright future.
Marin Lepp, an Elizabeth House staff, said the grotto and statue speak to the “the incredible support and spiritual foundation that this place has for all of the women who we welcome from every background, every walk of life. This represents strength in womanhood and in motherhood and that looks so different for all of our ladies based on their circumstances.”
Marin called the the grotto a grounding place, and a guide in Elizabeth House’s approach to reconciliation for Indigenous peoples. She reflected that at the centre of the work is “motherhood, womanhood and the strength around that.”
The special garden area where Our Lady of Guadalupe has taken up residence was blessed recently by Bishop William McGrattan of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary.
“I think the legacy of Elizabeth House is something that we’ve received from the religious and I think it’s something that allows us to witness to and continue the sanctity of human life and to know that we’re helping families, especially women who want to make this choice. It’s counter-cultural and I think the Church needs to be present and allow them to go forward with this particular support that they need,” said Bishop McGrattan.
Bishop McGrattan emphasized the importance of making sure that Elizabeth House continues. He stated that the program has important donors and volunteer associations who value and support the work of Elizabeth House and stated that this work is “an important commitment as well. Just the experience of them being here supporting these young women and their children is something. They know they’re living their faith.”
Bishop McGrattan also reflected on the significance of Mary as a symbol of grace, joy, and hope for all. He stated that “First of all, she is Christ’s mother. The mother of the visible and the image of the invisible God. But she is also the image and the model of the Church and she is an exemplar. In Mary, the Church joyously contemplates the image of all that the Church itself desires and hopes wholly to be. The Church recognizes in Mary the model of the path and the practice it must follow to reach complete union with Christ.”
Bishop McGrattan hoped that when people from Elizabeth House are outside in the backyard the grotto the statue of Mary will catch their eye and that “they might be drawn into a moment of reflection, a moment of prayer. And that’s what images and statues are for. They draw our attention, they focus our thoughts and our sentiments. Often we formulate the words of prayer. This is how I think it will be an important statue here in this backyard of Elizabeth House,” he said.
“We know that those who come here in this yard and are able to pray, and contemplate, will ponder as Mary did in the silence of her heart the truth and the gift of human life and the gift and choice that they’ve made. We pray and hope that this will be a time and a moment where they see the hand of God through our Blessed Mother that they have made a choice for life and that we are supporting them.”
Written by Mario Toneguzzi & Elizabeth House Staff for Faithfully. Photos courtesy of Marin Lepp.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers