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  St. Mary's Academy & College

The History of St. Mary's Academy & College


No historical sketch or tour of St. Mary's would be complete without some mention of the Grotto (located at the base of the hill just to the east of Our Lady's Circle) and the Gazebo (located southeast of Loyola Hall, up the hill). The humble structure often called "the Gazebo," was originally knows as "Fr. Diels' Old Indian Shrine," after Fr. John F. Diels, Rector of St. Mary's from 1862-1869, who erected it long ago in mission times. It is believed to commemorate an apparition of the Blessed Virgin on this property. According to the legend, which has been kept alive not only by the Jesuits but also - and especially - by the townspeople of St. Mary's, the Lady appeared to an Indian maiden at the Mission, promising that St. Mary's would never be destroyed by storm. (There is an implication that a storm was approaching and the girl was afraid.) According to one legend, the Lady is said to have appeared also to an Indian boy, Udoy, who was gathering fruit, nuts, and berries, hoping that Our Lady would appear. She did, and let Udoy hold the Infant Jesus.

Many have taken the legend to mean protection from tornadoes for which Kansas is so famous. It is true that our town has been spared from them, often in remarkably amazing circumstances. Tornadoes have been seen to split, swerve, or lift, just before entering St. Mary's. For instance, in May, 1960, a destructive funnel cloud was headed directly for St. Mary's, only to veer off and go east down the river valley.

However, a descendant of the early Potawatomi, Sr. Virginia Pearl, said in a 1988 interview with Dorothy Hoobler in the St. Mary's Star, that "storm" meant a "storm of evils," not just the literal winds of a tornado. This view casts a fresh and interesting light on the prophesy, and gives us much to ponder in view of St. Mary's role at the present time.

The site of this beautiful legend of Our Lady's apparition is associated with the gazebo, although some persons favor the grotto as the actual apparition site. The old shrine of Fr. Diels was beautifully restored and re-roofed by generous parishioners in the summer of 1998.



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