By Jen Drow, special to the Florida Catholic Newspaper – December 14, 2017
Our Blessed Mother has a wonderful new home at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Lakeland. After two years of dedicated fundraising, the Knights of Columbus 11651 helped priests gather enough money for a gorgeous new grotto.
For Parochial Administrator, Father Val DeVera, it’s the realization of a lifelong dream of doing something special to honor the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. “The image of Mary reminds us that we are called to be like her, to give our ‘yes’ to God in doing His will,” explains DeVera. “Yes to God is allowing God to be the center of our lives.”
The grotto was dedicated on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8. “This was a real team effort that the Knights of Columbus enjoyed every minute of,” shared Grand Knight Dan Marino. “We are delighted we were able to help Father Val realize his dream and by so doing, give the St. Anthony parish community a beautiful grotto where parishioners and visitors can pray to the Blessed Mother and also meditate in a beautiful garden setting.”
The focal point of the grotto is an exquisite statue of Mary surrounded by colorful flowers and plants native to Florida. It came with a $15,000 price tag—every penny raised with fish fry parties where priests even rolled up their sleeves. “They are great guys who are fun to work with and for,” said fellow Knight Robert Pezanowski. “They supported this effort every step of the way, including pitching in to cook and clean up after the dinners.”
The faithful of St. Anthony Parish and the greater Lakeland communities were also key in bringing this vision to life. Marino adds, “We are grateful to everyone who contributed to the success of the fish fries. With the support we enjoyed from Catholics, as well as members of other faiths, this turned out to be a real ecumenical endeavor.”