ROCKLEDGE | The parish and school communities of St. Mary in Rockledge came together to spruce up school campus prayer gardens in the hopes of creating sacred spaces and allowing beauty to inspire encounters with God.
Six prayer gardens were the target of almost 40 volunteers made up of parents, students and young adults in various parish ministries. “We wanted areas around the school for silent prayer and retreat time. Also, to show our students examples of how community comes together,” said Nancy Potchka, assistant principal at St. Mary’s.
Parochial vicar Father Blake Britton, who helped lead the project, added, “We wanted our children to be surrounded by an environment that was beautiful, spiritual and enriching—a place where they could study with peace and holiness.”
The Sally Sullivan Garden for Our Lady was first on the list. Sullivan was a former student who passed away. Her parents sponsored the garden in her honor. Sod and mulch were replaced after weeding and tree trimming was complete. The garden has spotlights so the 5.5-foot statue of Our Lady can been seen at night.
The Garden of the Blessed Virgin Mary was also refurbished. It is located in the interior of the school campus. It’s where students gather each morning to pray a decade of the rosary and pledge allegiance to the flag. The Grotto of St. Jude received a new statue and all the gardens now have fresh flowers.
Father Britton said teachers were encouraged to take students outside to sit in front of the grotto and read or visit any of the gardens to do their homework. Potchka explained this makeover was also inspired by the school’s mission: “To create and encourage an environment of academic and spiritual excellence where our children can grow in the knowledge of God.”
“Beauty is one of the main teachings of the Church,” explained Father Britton. “Beauty has always been one of the main missions of Catholicism. We see this in all the cathedrals of Europe, the choirs that are sung, in Gregorian chants, in the artists of Michelangelo and Caravaggio. Beauty is a way in which we encounter God. And the most beautiful thing of all time is not a thing, but of course a person, Christ Jesus. He is the most perfect symbol of beauty.”
He added, “The Church, following the example of the Incarnation, has always sought to use beauty as an avenue to encounter God. We as a school follow that tradition example. So when they see the beautiful statues of the holy family, the flowers, it leads them to something deeper than what the image symbolizes, which is Christ, His saints and the call to holiness.”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic October 2, 2019