This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Another grotto

I do not travel far from Rensselaer often, but on Tuesday I drove west through Beaverville, Illinois and decided to stop and look for what I was pretty sure was a grotto near the very impressive church. It was easy to find.

Beaverville was settled by French Catholics and was originally called St. Marye. Its name was changed when the residents found out there was another town by the same name in Illinois. The name Beaverville was chosen because of the abundant beaver in the area in the days before Beaver Lake, the largest lake in Indiana, was drained. 1895 is a key date in our story.
1895 -- St. Mary's becomes the U.S. headquarters of Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary when four nuns, who had come from France, arrive to open Holy Family Academy, a novitiate and boarding school for boys and girls. Mother Marie Eustelle is first superintendent, through 1921. Four-story school completed; 60 students enrolled.
Alas, the academy is no more, and the grotto is one of the few remnants of what must have been an impressive campus. Its history in a nutshell:
The Academy was opened by the sisters in September 1895 with 60 pupils. In less than 20 years, the enrollment increased to 300. Additional buildings were added in 1905. The Academy served as a coed elementary school and an all-girls high school. Do [sic] to a drop in enrollment, the elementary school was closed in 1965 and the high school in 1969. The building was razed in 1976-77
You can find pictures of the buildings of the academy here.
1911 -- Grotto completed at south end of Holy Family grounds, as pledged by Sister Mary Anthony, who had been in ill health until she went to the Grotto at Lourdes in France.
Here is a side view.

In 2007 it was refurbished. The statue that is presently there does not seem to fit the niche very well. It looks to me like a somewhat bigger statue was originally there.

There is a large grotto that currently is empty. There were not even any beer or pop cans on the day I visited.

If we walk north from the grotto past the playing field and the pear trees, we come to the church. There are several statues on the grounds, undoubtedly left from the days of the academy. A statue of Jesus stands in front of the church with is large rose window.
And here is the church. It is far, far larger than a church should be in a tiny town like Beaverville. Its size is a problem. It requires maintenance, and that is not cheap for a church this large. Here is some information on recent renovation.
Before I left I took the time to take pictures of two sculptures that were still on display.
Sometime I would like to stop and revisit the interior of this beautiful church. If I do, I will post the pictures on this blog.

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