Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Gonzaga University’s new shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Montserrat
Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the June 11, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)
Father Patrick Hartin blessed the new statue of Our Lady of Montserrat in the student chapel at Gonzaga University. (IR photo)
On Friday, May 2, at the noon Mass in the Gonzaga University Chapel, Father Patrick Hartin, a priest of the Diocese of Spokane who teaches in the university’s Religious Studies Department, led the assembly in blessing a statue recently installed in a wall shrine in the rear of the chapel. The new statue is a replica of the original of Our Lady of Montserrat, in Spain.
For several years, Jesuit Father Rick Ganz, former director of University Ministry at GU, had wanted to establish a shrine to Our Lady of Montserrat on the Gonzaga University campus. Last year, Jesuit Father Gary Uhlen-kott, Gonzaga music professor, was teaching in the university’s Gonzaga in Florence summer program, in Italy. A year ago, Father Uhlenkott and two students, Andrew Carroll and Joe Di Re, arrived at the Shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat, in Catalonia, Spain, in a Benedictine monastery atop a rocky mountain there.
This shrine in Spain holds a special place in the history of the Society of Jesus. In 1522 the Society’s founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola, received his vocation while praying before the statue of Our Lady of Montserrat and began the spiritual journey that would lead to the foundation of the Order. According to legend, the statue of Our Lady of Montserrat was carved by St. Luke the Evangelist, and later taken to Catalonia by St. Peter.
The replica of Our Lady of Montserrat which now occupies a place of honor in Gonzaga’s University Chapel came to be there through the generosity of Joe (a 1974 Gonzaga graduate) and Gena Columbus. A few years ago, the couple visited the Monastery of Montserrat and were deeply touched by their time in the presence of the centuries-old statue of the Blessed Mother.
Upon their return to the U.S., Joe and Gena Columbus wanted to make a donation to the university, and the university’s president at the time, Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer, offered them three options. The couple chose to purchase the replica statue and fund its transportation from Spain to the Gonzaga campus.
Earlier in 2009, the couple also funded the construction of a small chapel in Marian Hall, a dorm on the G.U. campus, dedicated as the Oratory of Our Lady of Montserrat. This oratory is part of a plan to create a network of sacred spaces on the Gonzaga campus.