In 1858, a young girl named Bernadette Soubiroux of Lourdes, France, reported seeing visions of the Virgin Mary in a nearby grotto. The grotto became a place of spiritual significance and millions of people visited it, hoping to cure whatever ailed their bodies or souls.
The people of many parishes felt a need to commemorate Bernadette’s visions in the grotto by creating a similar setting for prayer in their communities. A Lourdes Grotto was first proposed here in 1943, with the strong support of Father McHugh, parish priest.
In the spring of 1947, a statue representing Our Lady of Lourdes was transported by boat to the Grotto, located on George Island. A statue of Bernadette Soubiroux was also installed.
The Grotto received its first solemn blessing June 4th, 1947, in a ceremony led by Bishop Dignan (see photo).
The Manitoulin Expositor newspaper described the event as follows: The Lourdes Grotto on George Island was solemnly blessed by His Excellency Most Reverend Bishop R.H. Dignan on Wednesday afternoon, with twelve priests in attendance.
The procession led by the school children singing hymns, followed by the altar boys, priests and the Bishop, were taken across the channel by motor boats and a scow to where about a hundred parishioners were gathered about the shrine.
That evening His Excellency confirmed forty children and two adults in St. Bonaventure Church, after which he gave Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament...
On June 8th, the Parish held the first of its own events at the Grotto — the Feast of Corpus Christi. Father McHugh’s diary records the celebration plans...Exposition today until 3 o’clock when the Corpus Christi procession will be held to the Grotto....I will ask the following men to be canopy bearers — Jos. Burke, Fred Beauvais, W.C. Low, Jos. Herbert, John Mendoshkin, Chas. Roque, John DeLamorandiere, Alfred Beaucage. The following to act as Marshalls and guards over the Channel — Cecil Low, Clement Roque, Jos. Low, Norman Beauvais, J. Proulx Jr., Basil Pitfield.
Pete Lowe oversaw the restoration of the Grotto, beginning in April of 1984. It was rededicated July 15th of the same year, when Father Warenda was parish priest.