Fr. Jack Topper, OSM, Retires


The Grotto announces the retirement of Fr. Jack Topper, O.S.M.

Fr. Jack has served The Grotto for many years, first as Director from 1991-2014 and then as Rector from 2014 to the present. Fr. Jack’s tenure at The Grotto were years of modernization, beautification, and greater visitor outreach.

When Fr. Jack arrived at The Grotto in the summer of 1991, a fund-raising campaign to construct a new gift shop was already underway and Fr. Jack worked hard to build new relationships with the friends and supporters of The Grotto, as well as the larger community. The Grotto Gift Shop, as well as the adjoining plaza were dedicated in early 1995.

In 2001, a new visitor complex and conference center facility was completed in the plaza, on the site of the old gift shop. Other projects followed: a major plaza restoration in 2003, and a modernization of the elevator to the Upper Level Gardens in 2007. In 2010, Fr. Jack oversaw the installation of a meditative labyrinth in the Upper Level Gardens, modeled after the labyrinth in France’s Chartres Cathedral. This project was spearheaded by Servite Sister Val Lewandoski and Fr. Jack.

Fr. Jack is most proud of the creation and installation of the wayside cultural shrines that now grace a quiet pathway in the Upper Level Gardens. A Lithuanian shrine had been erected at The Grotto in 1963. In 2007, Fr. Jack collaborated with the members of the local Polish St. Stanislaus parish to create a new wayside shrine in honor of Our Lady of Czestochowa. This was followed by the installation of Dambana, the Filipino shrine in 2008. Most recently, the Our Lady of Lavang Vietnamese shrine was dedicated on Freedom Sunday in July of 2016, and the blessing and dedication of the shrine in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, will take place Saturday, October 29.

In 2012, Fr. Topper was the recipient of the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (for the Church and the Pope) medal, also known as the Cross of Honor, an award bestowed on clergy and lay people by the papacy in recognition of outstanding service to the Church.

Honoring this occasion, Fr. John Fontana, O.S.M., Prior Provincial of the Friar Servants of Mary, USA Province, stated, “We Servites are so proud and so deeply grateful to Fr. Jack, who has been the ‘face and voice’ of the Grotto, and of the Servite community, for more than 23 years! He has developed the Sanctuary physically and spiritually. And, with his engaging personality, he has so ably led its diverse ministries of hospitality, spiritual enrichment, worship and prayer, offering the opportunity for both quiet reflection and joyful celebrations to such a vast variety of pilgrims and visitors from near and far.”