Brussels grotto celebrates 85th anniversary, receives state recognition

Historical society honors cemetery grotto as historical landmark

BRUSSELS — On Oct. 29, 1935, Norbertine Fr. Jerome Gloudemans, pastor of St. Francis and St. Mary Parish, led parishioners in a prayer service and dedication of the Brussels Cemetery Grotto. The grotto, located in the cemetery next to the church, features a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. A crucifixion scene is displayed above the grotto and several devotional niches surround it.

Fr. Edward Looney, pastor of St. Francis and St. Mary Parish in Brussels, leads parishioners in a prayer service and rededication of the Brussels Cemetery Grotto on Oct. 29, the 85th anniversary of the grotto’s original dedication. Fr. Looney oversaw the replacement of the weathered and deteriorating crucifix and other updates. The Wisconsin Historical Society has designated the grotto a historical site. (Submitted Photo | For The Compass)

The grotto includes a tomb originally meant for Fr. Gloudemans. The tomb, however, remains empty, as Fr. Gloudemans was buried at St. Norbert Abbey. “Parishioners were asked to bring in the most beautiful stones they could find to help create the grotto, which was built in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes,” according to a 2009 Compass story marking the parish’s centennial.

In anticipation of the grotto’s 85th anniversary in 2020, Fr. Edward Looney, current pastor, oversaw the replacement of the weathered and deteriorating crucifix and the laying of a sidewalk down the center of the cemetery, allowing easier access. A new walkway of paver bricks was added to replace an unlevel, circular stone walkway.

Following the grotto’s restoration, the Wisconsin Historical Society designated the grotto as a historical site and erected a historical marker.  

On Oct. 29, two dozen parishioners gathered for a prayer service and candlelight rosary at the grotto to commemorate the 85th anniversary and the grotto’s historical designation. At the conclusion of the rosary, Fr. Looney blessed the new crucifix and offered a prayer of rededication.  

“For a pilgrim to Lourdes, the night would have felt similar with candlelight, the rosary and song,” said Fr. Looney. “The grotto is an icon of our community’s faith, the devotion of people long ago and of us still today.”

The grotto is visited by both locals and tourists, and Fr. Looney anticipates — with the Wisconsin Historical Marker designation — more visitors will find their way to the grotto. He said he hopes “they will offer a prayer to almighty God during their visit.”