Today, February 11 is the patronal feast of Our Lady of Lourdes RC Maraval and Tacarigua.
The Feast commemorates the 18 times in 1858, the Blessed Virgin appeared to, and talked with St Bernadette of Lourdes in France.
The Maraval parish sourced an old document containing historical information about the church and shared images of these with Catholic News. The writer and publication information however, could not be clearly ascertained.
It stated, “On May 4th 1873 Father Emmanuel Alvarez was appointed to the parish as pastor. He remained the parish priest until his death in July 5th 1913, over 40 years in the parish and firmly established the devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes.” He was born in Caracas 1842 and became a secular priest.
It continued, “It was he who completed the church, built altars to the Sacred Heart and Blessed Virgin, purchased a large bell to summon the congregation for Mass and installed a dial in the tower to ensure they came in time for services!”
HISTORY OF THE GROTTO
“In 1903 Fr Alvarez and his willing parishioners put up a grotto with their own hands. But the space in front of the grotto was limited and could not provide accommodation for the increasing number of pilgrims. In spite of mixed feeling[s] about the destruction of the ‘old grotto,’ Father Delahunt, the then parish priest persuaded the parishioners to proceed with work on the new grotto
In the last week of November 1953 bulldozing of the hill behind the old grotto commenced and continued for 33 days courtesy of Chaguaramas Terminals. Then the parishioners got to work 50, 60, sometimes 100 at a time. Night fell on them some days as they worked under the supervision of Norman Monsegue, piling stones upon stones without mortar. In 5 weeks, the grotto was completed.
On Sunday February 21st, 1954, hundreds of pilgrims came for the blessing of the grotto. Some arrived in Maraval from the Friday before, for they had come from afar – San Fernando, Point Fortin, Siparia, Sangre Grande, Toco and Moruga. For many years the devotion of Our Lady of Lourdes has spread and increased throughout Trinidad, and Maraval in particular was (and still is) the centre of pilgrimage. Just as there were many cures of the sick at Lourdes, so too the sick people came to this replica of the original grotto in the hope of obtaining a cure through the grace of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Archbishop Finbar Ryan OP presided at the blessing of the grotto on the Sunday afternoon as was his custom, he preached at length, stressing the need for faith. ‘This gathering at the Grotto is a tangible sign of our complete devotion to our Queen, the Blessed Virgin Mary’.”