Throughout the years, the Virgin Mother Mary has appeared to countless believers, bringing messages of hope, love and peace.
Feb. 11, parishioners at Notre Dame Church saw the Virgin Mary appear before them and, although it was in the form of a statue, emotions ran high as the curtains were drawn back.
"There were many tears," said Father Gerard Legaspi. "It was such an emotional evening."
The work of art, created by local artist Dean Bauche, depicts the scene at the grotto in Lourdes, France, where Mary appeared to Bernadette, a poor, young French girl.
The unveiling coincided with the Feast Day of Lourdes, and also wrapped up the celebration of Notre Dame Parish's 105-year anniversary.
Before the creation was revealed, Bauche, City of North Battleford's former director of galleries, gave a moving speech about faith.
He spoke of taking his mother for granted, and upon her sudden passing, empathizing with a film set during World War II in which a Jew tells his sister he wished he had gotten to know her better, as they embarked on a train heading to a death camp.
"I was both saddened and truly surprised by the paradox that we can live with and be close to others but never really get to know them," said Bauche.
"In my case, as long as my mother was with me, I was inclined to take for granted her love, her daily concern, her wisdom, her advice, her prayers, her hopes and intercessions on my behalf."
Bauche then told the story of Bernadette, of how she insistently returned to the grotto even when ordered not to and revealed the healing water that flows even today, making Lourdes a destination for pilgrims and miracle-seekers.
He emphasized the importance of not just the appearance of Mary to the young Bernadette, but that, later in life, Bernadette remained passionate about her duties as a nun, even when they became routine, and "she never lost sight of their sacred nature as others often do when they become too familiar with sacred things."
Bauche said Bernadette "had learned the way of Mary" and set an example by striving to learn more about God every day of her life. Bauche said Mary, who offers an example of how to live a fuller life, close to God, plays an important role in the salvation of mankind, but because she is ever-present, her intercessions and miracles may be taken for granted.
"As Catholics, most of us know the stories of the extraordinary nature of these events, yet many of us have taken her love, her concern, her intercession and pleading for granted," said Bauche.
He recounted how, as a young man returning to his faith, he befriended a couple. They told Bauche how the wife's brother was in the last stages of cancer and their father took him to Lourdes against the family's wishes, who feared the trip would do nothing more than rob the boy of what little strength he had left. The son returned, exhausted, but upon visiting the doctor, it was discovered the cancer was gone.
Bauche said hearing this made him realize miracles are important, not just to those who directly experience them, but to those who hear of them and have their faith reawakened, renewed and reaffirmed.
Bauche closed by saying, "Let us come to know the intercession, love, comfort and peace of our Heavenly Mother and never take for granted the merciful hand of God, which is stretched out to us in the form of the Queen of Heaven."
After Bauche concluded his speech, the curtains were removed, revealing the grotto.
Bishop Albert Thévenot, who came from Prince Albert for the event, blessed the effigy.
The congregation, many with tears in their eyes, formed a line, each taking turns to lay a flower on the grotto.
Bishop Thévenot spoke to the congregation about Christ's first miracle, turning water to wine, and the importance of joy in a Catholic's life.