Regis' Our Lady of Loretto Grotto receives impressive makeover

Serene space for reflection and prayer becomes more inclusive.


In 1891, Br. Ben Tovani asked for, and received, permission to transform pieces of stone and timber left over from the construction of Main Hall into a place of prayer and contemplation on what is now Regis’ Northwest Denver Campus.

The result of his work was officially named the Grotto to Our Lady, but it was better known as Brother Ben’s Garden in honor of his tireless work tending and cultivating the spot for some 58 years. His effort ended only when Brother Ben’s health no longer allowed him to work in his garden.

Without Brother Ben’s care, the original grotto deteriorated. It received new life, however, when the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes and a stone sanctuary were added in 1950, thanks to a gift by the Rev. Thomas Swift, S.J. The statue had originally stood on his mother’s gravesite in Kansas City.

To honor Regis’ union with Loretto Heights College, the Grotto was rededicated in 2015 as the Spirit of Loretto to honor the Sisters of Loretto.

This year, the Spirit of Loretto underwent another transformation. Thanks to generous donations from Regis graduates Donald Dillon and Luisa Staerkel, it’s now a wheelchair-accessible space, and lighting and water features were added. Also, the statue of Our Lady was repaired to erase scarring caused by decades of exposure to the elements.

Brother Ben undoubtedly would approve.

About Regis University

Established in 1877, Regis University is a premier, globally engaged institution of higher learning in the Jesuit tradition that prepares leaders to live productive lives of faith, meaning and service. Regis University, one of 27 Jesuit universities in the nation, has three campus locations in the Denver metro area and extensive online program offerings with more than 8,000 enrolled students. For more information, visit