People of New Lebanon Carry Stones for Shrine for Our Lady of Lourdes
Newspaper article. Probably 1929.
Father LeFebvre Designs Grotto Similar to Famous One in France - Hundreds Take Part in Contributing Stones - Drive for Funds To Be Started - Chimes Planned - May Become Famous Shrine
By wagon and by truck, by child's. cart and by hand, great stones and little stones, red stones and white stones have been trundled across the countryside of New Lebanon, N.Y. to grow into a pile, background and setting for a shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes to be erected in New Lebanon valley. The- work has been going on for seven months, with persons from the valley and from near and far away, contributing their stones, or if unable, their funds.
The shrine to be erected is the 'brain " child of Rev., John LeFebvre, pastor. of the Immaculate Conception church;in. New Lebanon. He gained hls idea from the peculiar nature of the countryside with its mountains to the east and brooks running into the valley. The most striking point was that the church, to which he came was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception which in mind brought it close to Lourdes, where, according to legend; the Virgin announced herself to Bernadette.
The fact was mentioned to both parishes of Lebanon and Stephentown and the pastor asked the parishioners to furnish the material for the bulding of the grotto.
The people began to respond by bringing field stones from a radius of 20 miles. Wagon loads and truck loads were brought in day after day. So Intense did the devotion increase that old people and cripples carried their stones for miles to place them on the rapidly growing pile: Little children with kiddie carts and push carts came from three or four miles away and carted their offering with much devotion. Not only the people of Lebanon have contributed to the pile of stones, but people for many miles around have done likewise. One person has even ordered a carload of stones from Coral Cables, Florida. From surrounding cities people in their automobiles brought field stones and those who could not do so left their offerings to help with the construction of the shrine.
This grotto to our: Lady of Lourdes was designed by Father LeEebvre himself. It is his own conception. and he intends to erect the most beautiful affair of this kind in this part of the country.
It will be 40 feet in width, 36 feet in height and 32 feet in depth and will Have Five Chambers.
The five chambers which lead gradually to the niche will be constricted with selected stones of their natural color producing a rainbow effect throughout the arches. In the foreground of the five chambers is the altar where mass will be celebrated and parishioners and tourists who are passing by may stop and pay tribute to the Blessed Virgin. Other ceremonies will be celebrated at the shrine and the very rituals of the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France will be celebrated.
The cost of erecting and maintaining the shrine will amount to a very large sum of money. A start is being made and as time goes on other additions will be added such as a set of chimes which will peal throughout the Lebanon valley. Such a set of chimes will cost inthe neighborhood' of $20,000- alone.
Many friends of Father LeFebvre in Berkshire county have shown a great interest in the proposed shrine. People from all over he United States who have been crippled or affected with some serious disease or, illness have traveled many miles to that famous shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre. Then again many have gone to the shrine of St. Joseph at Montreal.
Many who would have liked to have gone to the Lady of Lourdes in France could not because of the lengthy trip and the expense of taking such a journey.
Many Contributions Received
It is hoped by the friends of Father LeFebvre who are trying to assisit him in his efforts that what St. Anne de Beaupre and the shrine of St Joseph has done for Canada, the shrine at New Lebanon will likewise do for Lebanon valley and Berkshire county. Many contributions have been received.
Immaculate Conception Church and
Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine
732 US 20
PO Box 218
New Lebanon, NY 12125
Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto
The "Echo" newspaper, 1993
In a little town in southwestern France, thousands of Roman Catholics make a national pilgrimage each year to a grotto where there is a spring of healing water: It was by this spring l so say the believers, that the Virgin Mary revealed herself to a little peasant girl named Bemadette Soubrious in the year 1858. A statue of the Virgin stands on a rock projecting over the grotto, and the walls are covered with crutches of those who have come on them and have left cured. This little town in France is named Lourdes.
Just sixty-five years ago there came to the little New York town of New Lebanon a priest assigned to pastor the congregation of people gathered at the Church of the Immaculate Conception. His name was John B. LeFebvro, and he had been to Lourdes. Upon entering the beautiful Lebanon Valley, he was struck by the similarities between the two places. The mountains and springs and sky all seemed alike until he exclaimed one day, "This is is the Valley of Lourdes." It was this inspiration that led him to build the shrine that is officially called "Our Lady of Lourdes Giotto."
The good priest came to the area in 1928 and stayed just six years, until 1934, but during that time the newspapers of the day recorded that over one million people stopped to kneel and pray; at this shrine. It was dedicated July 7,1929, and in 1979 its .50th anniversary celebration was held.
The shrine was built in honor of the Virgin Mary, out Lady of Lourdes. The grotto contains five chambers and is 40' wide, 36' high, and 32' in depth. A real cave effect is produced as one draws near the opening, and at the extreme end of the grotto there is a statue representing the apparition of the Virgin to the little` Bernadette. The five chambers gradually lead to the niche of the apparition, and all chambers are constructed with stories selected for their natural color, producing a rainbow effect throughout the arches.
The present church organization at the side of the grotto did not always rest at this location. It was originally built in the cemetery in Lebanon Springs, on the Old Mountain Road to Pittsfield. The cemetery, of course, is still there, but all that remains of the old church building are the concrete steps which-can still be climbed. Catholic masses were first held in New Lebanon in 1868 by visiting Priests from Coxsackie, many miles away. That year, it was not unusual to see whole families traveling on foot over the Old Mountain Road to Pittsfield to attend services and masses when none were available in the Valley. This reverent perseverance in overcoming obstacles and hardships is difficult to visualize in today's generation.
For the next six years, from 1869 to 1874, the baby organization in New Lebanon was a mission, attended to by a priest from Chatham named James J.
Lebanon Springs was sold and moved to Stephentown where it now houses the St. Joseph's congregation'. The Rev. Dr. Moriarity was a man of strong character, a scholar and a leader. His administration gave new life to Catholicism throughout this countryside until 1874.
The first resident priest in New Lebanon was one John J. Brennan who was here from 1874 until 1880. The present priest, the Rev. Joseph Halloran, is the 25th resident priest in this one hundred "nineteen year span.
The shrine, built about 58 years after construction of the church, and built very close to the church, is somewhat dwarfed in size by the larger building, but it is this shrine that has been the unique feature. The original intention of Father LeFebvre, builder of the shrine, was to move the church building back about 200 feet away from the road, and had he stayed here, this probably would be the site of the building today, but his departure and the Great Depression brought an end to this dream.
You may enter this shrine at any time, for It is yours: There is no door, no key. There are no openings, no closings, no shutters against the weather of the Valley, no furnace to ease the winters storms.
Kneel in this sanctuary of faith, and you will rind comfort; for this house is insulated with love.
Do not look for reason in these New Lebanon stones; the mortar is faith alone. It built this shrine, and it built this church, and it knits the diocese to the human struggle against poverty; disease; ignorance, and fear, It is the same mortar that has held the great cathedrals from tumbling, and it binds Christians together throughout the world."
More than 9,000 people attended the dedication of the shrine in 1929. A feature of this first service was an apparent example of the power of faith to heal. John Maher; an aged New Lebanon resident, at that time laid before the statue a pair of crutches without which he had not been able to walk for eleven years. He then proceeded to walk to his automobile without aid.
A very old man knelt at the grotto one day. He arose painfully and swayed a little as he regained his feet and made his way slowly to the bench. On his face was a contented smile. Without introduction he said, "Once a month I come over from Pittsfield, Just-to-talk to the Virgin for a little while. The Madonna, she's been good to me. Very good to Tony. She bring me to this country, make a place for me, give me a job, wife, and kids. I appreciate." A few seconds later, a big car pulled up and Tony rapidly disappeared over Lebanon Mountain, a man who loved his America, and found peace and happiness by the side of the road, at this shrine of faith.
"The Echo", an independent hometown paper of the Lebanon and Taconic valleys which was published continuously from March 5, 1940, to October 10, 1996.