Benedictine Grotto Earns Awards
The completed grotto on Sep. 8, the day it was blessed by Archbishop Joseph Naumann.
Mary’s Grotto continues to bring attention to the Benedictine campus, garnering awards for lighting and landscape masonry for two of the companies involved in its construction. Nestled on the hillside on the western edge of the academic quad, the Grotto can be seen from most of the campus. The shrine serves as a place for quiet meditation, inspiration, and outdoor prayer.
“Mary’s Grotto is the most significant contribution to the spiritual life of Benedictine College in the last fifty years,” said Father Brendan Rolling, director for mission and ministry at Benedictine. Now, in addition to the grotto’s spiritual significance, its architectural significance is being recognized.
JE Dunn Construction of Kansas City, Mo. is the 2009 Masonry Construction Project of the Year winner in the Landscaping category.
“It was an unusual project for the contractors...JE Dunn had never built a grotto before in the history of the company,” said Steve Johnson, director of marketing and communications at Benedictine. “They had to do a lot of research and then it was a tricky combination of special steps and a large amount of hand labor.”
The dirt dome is removed from the inside of the grotto, creating the "cave."
The company used a method called silt casting to construct the cave portion of Mary’s Grotto. Once the footings were poured, a large dirt dome was formed where the grotto was to be placed. This dome gave the stone masons the guide to build the outer shell of the grotto. It was covered with over 40 tons of randomly sized limestone, with each piece of stone being placed by hand. The largest pieces of stone weighed up to 300 pounds. Once the stone was placed and secured with a steel skeleton and a mixture of concrete and resin, the dirt was removed, leaving the “cave” of the grotto.
JE Dunn will receive its award at the World of Masonry/World of Concrete international convention February 5, 2010, in Las Vegas, according to Shelby O. Mitchell, associate editor of The Concrete Producer and Masonry Construction magazines. Project details and a slide show can be viewed at http://www.ascribehq.com/masonry-construction-poy/awards/landscaping/nov2009/P4111.
The St. Joseph branch of Wachter Electric Company is the winner of a 2009 Excellence in Construction award from the Heart of America Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. (ABC) for its part in the construction of the grotto. The project will be featured in a special insert in the December 4, 2009 issue of the Kansas City Business Journal, according to a letter received by Wachter Electric Company from Jim Kistler, president of the local ABC chapter.
“Wachter had an interesting challenge with the lighting,” Johnson said. “They had to highlight Mary’s statue and the grotto itself without taking away from the candlelight. It’s the candles that give the warm, comforting glow that welcomes you. The award shows they accomplished that mission.”
Both awards are a positive reflection on and an extension of Benedictine’s focus on excellence.
“These awards come as no surprise to me because of the unique construction project and how beautiful it is,” said Stephen D. Minnis, president of Benedictine College. “Grottos of this size are not being built in the United States, therefore organizations are going to recognize the masonry and the lighting work done in it, and rightfully so. We are proud of Mary’s Grotto and now it has the recognition from others as well.”
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