Imagine approaching Our Lady of Perpetual Help Memorial Prayer Garden, its northeastern section an overwhelming experience reminiscent of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary:
- Agony – A thicket of red twig dogwood, with its anguished branches brilliant red throughout the long winter months, twisted in Christ’s agony, painting the background of the landscape.
- Scourging – Blue rug juniper, with its intense silver-blue evergreen foliage, scale-like leaves and berry-like cones, girding the underpinnings here and throughout the garden, mocking the innocence of the beatific plants it shrouds.
- Crowned with thorns – Beautiful rose bushes surrounding the sign, recalling the crown of thorns pressed into His head, yet blossoming into blood-red flowers throughout the summer.
- Wood of the Cross – Standing guard over the garden are two gnarled trees framing a simple sign, inspired by the legend of the dogwood tree. The inscribed prayer narrates the promise of this once mighty tree, humbled to be chosen as the Wood of the Cross.
- Crucified – A triplet of burning bush, bright scarlet in fall, reverberating as we first approach the garden, reminding us of the blood Christ shed for us.
Two small benches flank the dogwood sign, providing rest for quiet contemplation of the sacrifice of our Lord, before entering into the full beauty of the garden.
Deeper into the garden, leading to the church’s north entrance, one encounters four Okame cherry trees. These magnificent specimens break the dreary grip of late winter, much as Easter breaks the gloom of the Triduum, with an outstanding two- to three-week display of rosy pink blossoms. These trees are memorialized to Our Lady of Perpetual Help founding pastor Father Richard Hoch, pastor Father Thomas Shonebarger, and pastor Father Stephen Hawkins.
The chalice pathway of memorial paving bricks, engraved in memory of loved ones who precede us into the great communion of saints, leads us deeper into contemplation of the Holy Family. At the apex of the chalice pathway stands the magnificent bronze Holy Family icon, enticing us as the humble stepfather Joseph, and Mary, the mother of God, embrace Jesus, the Son of Man. A cherub-like pair of small decorative spruce frames the top of the brick chalice pathway; a beauty bush greets visitors as they turn to enter the church.
Anchored by sunken planter boxes filled with blossoming annuals in the shape of a cross, a stepping-stone rosary meanders through both east and west sections of the garden. The stepping stones, offered as annual memorials, are engraved and placed in the rosary garden and blessed during the May crowning, then returned to the sponsor the next year. Another pair of benches invites one to pray the rosary and invoke Mary’s intercession. Or simply wander through this garland of stunning St. John Paul II white roses, encountering the names of those memorialized on the stepping stones.
A trinity of great boulders rebounds opposite the brick chalice pathway. Three yet one, this intertwined grouping evokes the union of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Facing this seating area is a great curved granite bench, representing Christ’s Church here on earth, always in discernment with God, inviting small-group conversation and quiet contemplation leading to discipleship.
Annual flowers cascade down the cedar wall as nourishing water drips to river rock below like tears for the innocent, a soothing memorial for children who have been called home by God. A lone Russian Olive stands sentry over those mourned.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help’s Memorial Prayer Garden provides a quiet, safe place to simply “be” with God … to rest in His love, contemplate His providence, encounter the mystery of His life, death, and resurrection that forms the bedrock of our faith, invoke the intercession of His mother through the rosary, and be drawn into discipleship through God’s son, Jesus Christ.