Sacred Heart Church, a small parish in rural Quemado, NM, is home to a small but faithful group of Catholics. On a typical Sunday, 20-25 parishioners gather for Mass, celebrated by a priest who drives nearly two hours south from Gallup.
For Mark Hubbell, Quemado and its parish have been home his whole life, and when someone had the idea to build a new grotto, Hubbell led efforts to see the project to completion.
He said the grotto took around a year to build. The rocks used for the base were left over from the construction of Sacred Heart Church in the early 1950s.
“I did a lot of it myself, but I don’t want to claim credit for it myself because everybody pitched in, one way or another,” Hubbell said. “Everybody pitched in on glue and the rock. That was really the hardest part, is sitting those rocks in place and gluing them and grouting them.”
Parishioners donated most of the money used to purchase the grotto statue, a replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta.
It’s an unusual choice for a grotto – but one that has deep significance for Hubbell.
“Personally, it is [special] to me because my brother died when I was young, and he was only 19. The concept of a mother holding her son kind of hits me.”
He also wanted a statue of Mary that citizens of Quemado – many of whom are Evangelical and Baptist – could appreciate.
“It kind of lines up more biblically with the Protestant view – they kind of don’t like statues. But you can’t say much about the statue of Mary holding her [Son].”
On Sunday, September 25th, parishioners gathered after Mass to see the finished grotto blessed by Fr. Isaac Ogba. They selected a location next to the Parish cemetery in order to bring a sense of peace and comfort to those visiting a deceased loved one.
For Hubbell, it’s also a tribute to the history of Quemado, “to remind people of those who came to our community, built schools, businesses, families. Those who lie in our cemeteries and those who scattered in the wind.”
And – in times of uncertainty, conflict, or turbulence – a reminder of Jesus’ teachings.
“Maybe someday we will realize Christ was the Prince of Peace and quit sending people to war,” Hubbell said. “No mother should have to hold her dead son or daughter.”