Coming to Mary and Staying: Miracles of the National Shrine and Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes
‘We are considered a satellite of Our Lady of Lourdes in France.’
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France has a connection to a Lourdes shrine in Ohio; 64 years after Our Lady first appeared to St. Bernadette, the National Shrine and Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Euclid, Ohio, had its beginnings. In 1922, on pilgrimage to Lourdes, 3,986 miles away from Euclid, the mother superior of the Good Shepherd Sisters was inspired to build a replica of the grotto on the land donated to the congregation 10 miles east of Cleveland.
On May 30, Trinity Sunday, the nuns promised God they would build the shrine. Four years later, in 1926, again on Trinity Sunday, Archbishop Joseph Schrembs of Cleveland dedicated the Euclid shrine. Two years later, the grotto was named a national American shrine. Then, in 1952, the Sisters of the Most Holy Trinity — the Trinitarians — took over the work of the shrine.
In France, a Dominican priest asked the sisters if they could help with the English-speaking pilgrims. “As a thank you, he gave them relics that they brought back,” recalled Sister Phyllis Ann, today’s shrine administrator, to the Register. One is a piece of the rock that Our Lady stood upon when she appeared to St. Bernadette. “That’s where you see the pieces of stone that the water flows over at the Grotto; there’s also one embedded in a piece of marble on the side so that people can actually put their hands on it.” Near the statue of the Immaculate Conception, the slivers from the Lourdes stone are embedded in a sculptured marble book that looks like an old Communion book. And a third piece of the Lourdes stone “is in the gift shop,” along with “a little piece of St. Bernadette’s shoulder bone.”
“We are considered a satellite of Our Lady of Lourdes in France,” Sister Phyllis Ann explained.
“There was an apparition of Mary here. It’s part of the story that over the years has been pushed back or forgotten,” she added, before recounting the story. “This used to be a grape farm owned by the Harms family, very good Catholics. Julia Harms was married to the eldest son. And every day, she and her friends would go at noon to where the grotto [now] is, and they would say the Rosary there while she was pregnant. One day, Mary appeared to her and said that she would give birth and that the child would live, but that she, Julia, would pass away. Lo and behold, she gives birth to a little girl. Before she does, she tells her husband about the apparition and makes some promise that if the family should ever let this property go that it would be for a religious purpose dedicated to Mary.” Two weeks after she gave birth, Mrs. Harms passed away.
In 1919, when the Sisters of the Good Shepherd brought girls they cared for from Cleveland to the farm to pick grapes, the superior considered this a good place for the young women to live amid the peace of the outdoors away from the city. She got the property from the Harms family, and it was dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes.
For some long-forgotten reason, the sisters were not able to continue overseeing the shrine; but, providentially, the Trinitarians arrived in the United States to teach Italian immigrants. They have administered the shrine since 1952.
Throughout the years, the piece of Lourdes stone embedded in marble at the feet of Our Lady in the grotto, with a steady stream of water flowing over it, has become more than a replica of the healing spring at France.
Sister Phyllis Ann makes a local connection. “People say, ‘Do you have miracles?’ We don't call them miracles; we call them gifts from God — blessings from God.” She shared two; first, from a man who volunteered at the shrine until he was in his 90s. While she was a novice, he told her how, as a little boy, he was blinded in one eye, and his mother would bring him up to the shrine almost every day. She would wash his eye with the water, and they would pray. “But it was at Mass, when Father raised the Host and said, ‘This is my Body,’ he received his sight here. And some years later, when she returned to the shrine and he was 93 at the time, he told her, “Sister, I went to the doctor, and the doctor said, I’m going to go blind because of macular degeneration. But you know, I can still see out of the eye that was cured here. And he could still see out of his eye till the day he died.”
She also shared how a non-local “family came here and made a novena” to have another child. When the wife went to the doctor, Sister Phyllis Ann recounted, “He told her, ‘I'm sorry, but your son is not going to make it.’ His heart was on the right side of his body, not on the left, and none of the arteries were connected properly.” Sister Phyllis Ann did not know what options they gave the woman, but she insisted, “No, I’m going to bring this child to full term.” When the child was born, the heart was on the left side, and all the arteries and veins were correctly attached.”
People give countless testimonies of healings attributed to the Lourdes water here. Over the years she has been at the shrine, Sister Phyllis Ann has noticed a slight shift in these favors. In the late 1970s, “in those days, most of these graces were physical,” she explained. “Now, most people in the 21st century come here, and they’ll leave little pieces they get from AA,” for example, attesting to their being sober and overcoming alcoholism, or from Narcotics Anonymous, if they have been off drugs for a year. They leave these little tokens embedded in the rocks. “Along with the tangible cure, most of the time it’s a spiritual healing.”
There is a small building “where we keep the things that people leave behind in thanksgiving for the graces and blessings they received,” she said. She shared how one person from Honduras left a little t-shirt “because their child had been sick with leukemia, was going to the Cleveland Clinic, and when they went back home, the child had no trace of the disease whatsoever.”
Accommodating pilgrims from the world over, Masses are held outdoors at the grotto through October, where a statue of Bernadette kneels and gazes toward Our Lady. Since 1926, the white Italian Carrara marble statue of Mary bearing the proclamation “I am the Immaculate Conception” has stood here. Several Carrara marble statues also grace the grounds, beginning with the Sacred Heart, St. Anne and St. Joseph. The story of Lourdes is presented in a series of stained-glass windows lining the chapel and oratory.
Past the grotto, a path follows the shrine’s Way of the Cross around the wooded hillside to a tomb guarded by depictions of angels, which holds a life-size statue of Our Lord at repose. The stations end with a shrine of Our Resurrected Savior in triumph. Along the path, people can pray the 15-decade Rosary made of granite beads.
Sister Phyllis Ann calls the shrine “such a gift for so many people — and even people who are non-Catholic. They will just sit at the grotto. They tell me they feel very tranquil, very peaceful.”
Reflecting on how they need more sisters to do the work here, she underscored just how many souls are blessed here.
“This is a jewel. It is a place of peacefulness and tranquility,” said Sister Phyllis Ann. “And people come here for that tranquility, that peacefulness, to get away from all the noise and distractions and addictions of the world today. Some people who just drive on the property will go, ‘I don’t know why I’m here. But this is a beautiful place. And this is where I feel at home’” — a regular blessing at Mary’s Lourdes shrine, with its countless blessings from the Lord.
Sister Phyllis Ann also recalled how she, her mother and grandmother would come every Sunday to the shrine as she was growing up. They would take public transit from Cleveland, walk up the hill and, at 4 o’clock, join the Rosary and stay for Benediction, which continues at the shrine today. “I honestly feel that this is where my vocation was made known to me or the Lord allowed me to listen to what he was saying,” Sister Phyllis Ann said. “I just kept coming back, and I never left.”
National Shrine & Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes
21281 Chardon Rd., Euclid, OH