While formal construction of the Grotto at Orchard Lake did not begin
until November 1941, the idea for one had been in the minds and hearts of
faculty and students since the 1920’s. At that time, the Detroit and Vicinity Students Club presented a comprehensive study of the project to
then-rector, Msgr. Michael J. Grupa, who would give his approval only if
the club agreed to maintain it. The members could not meet such a
proviso, and the project was dropped.
In the 1930’s, a group of seminarians gathered "field stones" for the construction of stairs, walks and eventually the Grotto. However, the unfortunate financial position of the Schools at the time forbade the diversion of any funds for the project.
The breakthrough came in 1940 when attorney Stanley Mirus, of Detroit, informed Rector Msgr. Ladislaus Krzyzosiak that his client, Mrs. Josephine Rzeppa, a Detroit businesswoman, wished to donate $5,000 to the Schools for a specific project approved by her. The seminary badly needed a new organ, but the cost was $6,000. Mrs. Rzeppa rejected the suggestion and insisted the Schools come up with another idea that was within the limits of her gift. She accepted Msgr. Krzyzosiak's proposal of the Grotto in spite of the Board of Trustees' disapproval because the projected costs were expected to exceed $5,000. However, the Board Treasurer, Msgr. Alexander Cendrowski, was inspired to go ahead with the construction irrespective of the consequences.
The overall project was completed with the installation of an iron fence in 1946. The total cost was $12,357, far exceeding the amount of Mrs. Rzeppa's gift. The difference was made up by numerous donations and candle offerings. The statues and altar were sponsored by Rev. John Gulcz, of Wilmington, Delaware. Rev. Joseph Tompor and attorney Chester Kozdroj, of Detroit, paid for the electrical work. Msgr. Ladislaus Stanczak, of Erie, Pennsylvania, donated the cost of the statue of St. Andrew Bobola in the side chapel, while the Detroit and Vicinity Students Club donated the stone crucifix on the altar.
The Grotto has remained a favorite place for prayer and meditation by faculty, students and the public. It is estimated that each year more than 25,000 people remove themselves from their busy lives to pause and pray.