New Marian Grotto Built With Rocks Contributed By Parishioners

2008-10-30 20:28:54
All members of St. Mary´s Parish here, including its four mission stations, gathered to pray the rosary in sub-zero temperatures in front of their newly built Marian grotto.
From left: Fathers Stephen Kim, Francisco Hur and Bishop Wenceslao Padilla, apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaatar, during the blessing of the new Marian grotto at St. Mary’s Parish in Ulaanbaatar on Oct. 26.
As is their tradition, they recited the first half of each Hail Mary in Mongolian and the second half in Korean, an arrangement to help integrate the community of about 50 Korean and 250 other, almost all Mongolian, Catholics. The prayers on Oct. 26 preceded the blessing of the grotto. Significantly, every participant that morning could point to at least one rock he or she had contributed toward its construction. "The shiny white rock in the middle, above the cave, is mine," Bomboolei, a 14-year-old boy, pointed out to UCA News. Most people in Mongolia use only one name. Another boy, aged 7, said: "The yellowish ones around it and that striped rock are ours. We brought a rock for each of our family members, even for our aunt and uncle and grandpa who are not yet Catholics. We pray for them every day, and when they become Catholics they will have a rock in our cave here." Soon Bishop Wenceslao Padilla, apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaatar, arrived and the short blessing ceremony began. He walked quickly around the grotto, sprinkling holy water, while the congregation finished the rosary before filing into the church. According to the Philippine Immaculate heart of Mary bishop, the grotto is the first one in Mongolia. But he told UCA News, "The most beautiful thing about it is the people who pray in front of it." The parish priest, Father Stephen Kim, a missioner sent by Daejon diocese in South Korea, remarked to UCA News that "Mongolians have a very special relation to rocks." mg_ulaanbaatar.gifHe noted that a hillside south of Ulaanbaatar has "a 100-meter-wide portrait of Chinggis Khaan (Genghis Khan) made of rocks," and the rocks are said to have been taken from all 21 of Mongolia´s provinces. "That is why that portrait is even more meaningful for Mongolian people," he explained, because they are able to view not only a portrait of "their greatest historical hero, but also rocks from their own birthplaces." The parish Marian grotto also was built using rocks from most provinces. Enkhtuvshin, the parishioner who created it, told UCA News work on the grotto started this spring. "We obtained permission from the City Nature Preservation Office to bring some rocks from the riverside and from the 21 provinces," recounted the artist, whose baptismal name is Augustine. Parishioners who traveled to their home provinces during the summer were asked to bring a rock back, even though most of the rocks came from a nearby place at the riverside. "Only a few very faraway provinces are not represented," Enkhtuvshin said. Father Kim added that the parish wanted even poor members to be able to participate, so the parish council asked every parishioner to bring a rock to represent their family. "Some families brought a rock for each family member, some even for their friends," the priest continued.
Bishop Wenceslao Padilla, apostolic prefect of Ulaanbaatar, blesses the new Marian grotto at St. Mary´s Parish on Oct. 26.
However, a traditional belief among Mongolians is that moving rocks from their original location disturbs local spirits and makes them angry. "We prayed the rosary when we collected our family stones, because we wanted the local spirit to understand that we are taking the stone for the mother of God," said a young girl, Altanzul. Another girl, Jessica, shared: "We know that our God is greater than the local spirits, and we prayed the rosary to Our Lady asking her to protect us from their anger. We were not sure if they get angry or not, but just to be on the safe side." Enkhtuvshin is presently sculpting a statue for the grotto. "We temporarily placed a statue of Mary that had come from Belgium, but soon there will be a Mongolian Virgin there, with Mongolian features and dress," he revealed. Father Kim believes Mongolian Catholics will find praying at the grotto meaningful. "This grotto will be more than just another spot for people to get photographed," he said. "It will encourage our parishioners to turn to the Virgin Mother and come closer to Jesus by bringing their everyday needs, problems and joys here in prayer." END
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