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10/7/2013 9:52:00 AM
Grotto anniversaries marked
Catholic Sentinel photos by Jose Salame
Fr. Jack Topper is flanked by Archbishop Emeritus John Vlazny and Archbishop Alexander Sample.
Catholic Sentinel photos by Jose Salame
Fr. Jack Topper is flanked by Archbishop Emeritus John Vlazny and Archbishop Alexander Sample.
Dancers take part in anniversary Mass.
Dancers take part in anniversary Mass.
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A Knights of Columbus honor guard lines aisle as procession enters Grotto church.

The Grotto and the Servite friars celebrated two anniversaries Sept. 15.

The Mass of the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated on the third Sunday of September. This year, the Grotto also celebrated its 89th anniversary and the 25th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood of Servite Father Jack Topper, executive director of the Grotto. Father Topper presided at the Mass. Present in the sanctuary were Archbishop Alexander Sample and retired Archbishop John Vlazny. More than 500 worshipers participated in the joint celebrations.

The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, known as the Grotto, was dedicated in 1924, after Servite Father Ambrose Mayer purchased land on the north side of Rocky Butte from the Union Pacific Railroad Company and turned it into a Catholic Shrine. Now a 62-acre botanical garden and sanctuary, the Grotto is a place enjoyed by people from all over the world and from all walks of life.

In 1991, a few years after his ordination in Chicago, Father Topper was named executive director of the Portland sanctuary. He inherited a renewal project begun by his predecessor and immediately focused on raising funds for a new welcome center and gift shop. Other projects followed, including the construction of a visitor complex, conference center, and exterior elevator to make the offices and plaza more accessible. General aging on the shrine required restoration of the main plaza, and a new and expanded parking lot was built following a destructive winter storm.

In the upper level gardens at the Grotto, Father Topper has overseen the installation of Our Lady of Czestochowa Polish shrine and the Filipino Dambana shrine. Shrines in honor of Our Lady of Lavang and Our Lady of Guadalupe are in the planning stages. When Pope John Paul instituted the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, Father Topper worked closely with artist Mary Lewis to create a new set of bronze plaques depicting the new mysteries to match her earlier works in the Grotto Peace Garden. Another popular addition is a meditative labyrinth, which blends in with its natural setting in the gardens.

The Grotto’s Christmas Festival of Lights has grown and flourished over the years under Father Topper’s guidance. The event now welcomes 60,000 people each year to enjoy the lights and music presented by choirs from around the Northwest.

Next year the shrine will mark its 90th anniversary. Those in the know here say the Grotto’s mission as a place of solitude, peace, and prayer for all endures in no small part because of the hard work and dedication of its director.

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