Ave Maria Grotto recently added and dedicated The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help – Champion, Wisconsin, during a dedication ceremony at the 4 acre garden park nestled among the grounds of Alabama’s only Benedictine Abbey, St. Bernard Abbey, in Cullman.continue at Cullman Times
Ave Maria Grotto was originally created by Br. Joseph Zoettl, featuring 125 replicas of famous religious shrines from around the world from an array of items such as: cement, shells, ceramic tiles, cold cream jars, colored glass, costume jewelry and even marbles . It has been a destination stop in Cullman for the past 80 years to thousands of tourist from around the world.
Since the opening of the grotto on May 14, 1934, a local resident and stonemason has added additional shrines to compliment the work of Br. Joseph. Leo Schwaiger, a longtime employee of St. Bernard Abbey, has spent countless hours maintaining the intricate shrines and tinkering in his workshop to create additional pieces which have been added to the gardens.
While sitting at a church mission at Sacred Heart Church in Cullman, Schwaiger learned from Father Wade Meneses about the Champion, Wisconsin Church which has been the only place in the United States where the Virgin Mary has appeared to someone with Church approval.
“I had no idea we had a place such as this in the United States, but I thought it would only be appropriate to take a look at the brochures being presented and to collect photographs and more information on this Church,” Schwaiger said.