We couldn’t be more proud of the hard work and dedication our son Patrick has done to see his Eagle Scout project through completion. He still has to get his paperwork turned in for final approval before his ceremony, but most of the work is complete. He has been a Scout for 10 wonderful years. He started as a Cub Scout in the first grade in Den 3, Pack 3…and has been a member of Troop 380 for the last 5 years. I just wanted to share his project with you…he chose to rebuild a pile of rocks on the campus of Immaculate Conception Church into a prayer grotto for his parish.
The pile of rocks above are the remains of what was once a grotto, built around 1875 by the Sisters of Mercy and devoted families of St. Anne’s Academy and the growing Catholic community. The grotto was built on the exterior wall of the chimney of the home that the nuns lived in (formerly inhabited by President Zachary Taylor in the 1840’s, ) and was a special gathering place for many Catholics in Fort Smith, Arkansas to honor the Blessed Mother. The grotto became a Fort Smith landmark and appears in many local photographs--not only appearing in pictures of the Sisters, but also of photographs of school classes, weddings, and other events. The grotto fell to disrepair and was dismantled, though the year is not know.
L-St. Anne’s Academy Kindergarten students in front of grotto around 1905. R-Students from St. Anne’s Academy pray the rosary in front of the grotto (1947)
So, this eyesore pile of rocks is what Patrick chose as his project…the restore the grotto
to this site slightly southwest of the original location. The chimney is a replica of the original from the Zachary Taylor home archeological dig which began in 2004.
After many phone calls to gather information about how one goes about starting their Eagle Scout project, how one actually builds a grotto, raises the funds and clips through the layers and layers of red tape, the Eagle Scout candidate must get motivated to put all the info together to get permission from the BSA…all of it a delightful process! He must spend many more hours meeting with the stone mason, volunteers, church officials, Scout advisors, etc. He is now ready to choose a style of grotto to build and put his faith in his mason! God certainly knew what he was doing here! Mike Warren was an answer to his prayers.
Patrick and Mike Warren – the nicest and most talented stone mason
The first phone call Patrick made to start his project was in April, 2011. The first day of actual construction was Dec. 2, 2011…yes, it takes a long, long time. Patrick recruited volunteers to help sort through the rock pile and choose the right rocks for the rebuilt grotto.
The next steps: dig out foundation hole, add rebar…
pour cement, and cover with hay while it cures.
Stake out your level lines, build a form from cinder blocks and begin choosing the exact rock to set with masonry. Sounds so easy, huh? It is if Mike Warren is calling the shots…he let Patrick help with some of these steps…not even Rembrandt passed his paint brushes over to a novice to help out on a masterpiece!
The first day of building…
Patrick inspects the site
and lends assistance to Mike Warren. Every day brings more progress, more changes and more questions to be solved.
The structure is now ready for it’s form to be built by the carpenter, so off we go to ask for donated supplies!
The car is full of lumber and masonry supplies that we have to put the “bendy” plywood over Michael to get it all delivered to the site.
Scaffolding is brought in to build the top and the gothic pointed support is installed. Patrick receives more compliments every week from parishioners about the progress.
The scaffolding is 2 sided and Mike adds a little grafitti to the support!
It’s true! He really does!
Several more changes are made and Patrick and Mike discuss how to make them.
Patrick inspects the grotto at night to see how much the parking lot flood lights illuminate the area. He will meet with an electrician to discuss this.
La Nina, El Nino, whatever…we were very lucky to have such a mild winter so that this project would not take forever to complete. Mike would rather work in the cold than in the 110 degree temps!
Mike works on the gothic point and it had to cure for many days before removing the support.
Wish you could see the grin on Patrick’s face as Mike tells him this is his final day of working on the grotto!
Patrick measures the statue of the Blessed Mother to make sure she fits!
Now it’s time to clean up the area and get rid of the remaining rocks
and then move the statue to her new home.
Patrick and the professionals discuss the options of securing the statue to the stone structure
Once she is in place, Patrick lets the pros take over!
We are so very blessed to be his parents and are deeply proud of our young man. He has truly grown from this leadership experience in so many ways. Bishop Anthony Taylor will bless the grotto the day after Patrick’s confirmation in April. Thanks to all who helped with this project!