A new grotto at Gonzaga University in Spokane, designed as a place for prayer and reflection, was dedicated at a Mass on Sunday.

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SPOKANE — One by one, the reverent placed roses at the foot of the statue of the Blessed Mother Mary.

They were attending the Dedication Mass of the new Gonzaga University grotto on Saturday. The grotto, between St. Aloysius Church and College Hall, is designed to honor Mary and provide a place for prayer and reflection.

The Rev. Frank Case, who blessed the grotto, anointed the statue with holy water and incense before candles were lit by Gonzaga alumni, students, faculty, staff, members of the St. Aloysius parish and others from the community.

The grotto was created with the help of alumni and replaces the original shrine created in 1951 as a tribute to fallen soldiers of World War II.

For John McBride, the space is a place of protection. A Gonzaga alumnus who graduated in 1949, McBride was a member of the ROTC while attending the university, and he later became a combat veteran, a priest and a chaplain who served at several prisons.

“I have a tremendous gratitude because I think through the prayers of Our Blessed Lady I came home from World War II and I came home from the Korean War safe and sound,” he said.

McBride found Saturday’s dedication and the transformation of the space moving.

“Beautiful,” he said. “It was very touching and it was historic.”