By Travis King
Special to The Witness
DUBUQUE — The Knights of Columbus – David J. Ochs Council #15813 of Dubuque, took on a project request from their local parish elementary school at St. Columbkille. The project was to assist in the remodel of the main courtyard in the front of the school.
In 1962, the school children and their families raised funds to have a statue of their patron saint, St. Columbkille, carved out of marble in Italy, shipped and erected in the center of their courtyard of the school. Over the years, the courtyard layout has changed and became overgrown with trees, shrubs and weeds. The statue of St. Columbkille also has been weathered by the elements over the years and is in need of repair. The Knights of Columbus Council recognized that this space needed to be restored as a sacred space where the school children can pray and learn. Therefore in 2016, plans were drafted to create a prayer garden where the school children, families, and local community members can come to pray and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. In the summer of 2016, Barb Roling, the school’s principal, was approached by a subcommittee of the parish Knights of Columbus council to propose a draft of the plan for the school prayer garden.
The plan was to completely wipe clean the space of all weeds, and overgrown trees and plants, to pour a decorative cement walk way in the shape of a Celtic cross around the original statue of St. Columbkille, and to erect two other statues, one of the Holy Family in dedication to the domestic church, and a statue of the Divine Child Jesus with his Sacred Heart in dedication to all of the children that will pass through St. Columbkille’s school. The garden would then be decorated with small hedge rows and plant layout to give it an Irish garden look and feel in honor of our Irish Catholic heritage.
Work immediately started by the subcommittee to organize the help and resources that would be needed to complete this project. In August, work was started to clear the garden of the weeds and overgrown trees and shrubs. This work was completed by the Knights of Council #15813 as well as a father of a child in the school that owns a tree removal service company. The next phase of the project was to clear the path to pour a walkway in the shape of a Celtic cross.
The work and support was provided by Eric Hemmer (St. Columbkille parishioner) of Gierke Robinson Company who donated the coloration, stamps and cement buggies. The council also worked with the local Horsfield Construction, Inc. who was willing to donate the costs of the cement; the local Portzen Construction and River City Paving Company donated the costs of the rock that was used as the foundation to the walkway before the forms were set to pour the concrete. Portzen also provided their trucks to haul in the mulch that was also donated by Addoco. The greatest help for the walkway came from Paul Decker and Deacon Loras Weber and his family and crew in September 2016. Paul and his children were very instrumental in helping to clear the pathway with their skid steer. Deacon Loras and his family donated all of their time to setting forms, pouring, leveling, coloring, stamping and sealing the cement.
They also provided the support of laying out the rebar and wire to help reinforce the concrete. In addition to this, two Knights and their family donated the costs of the two new statues of the Holy Family and the Divine Child Jesus. Both of these statues are custom made and are scheduled to be installed in the school prayer garden by the end of April 2017. The final elements of the prayer garden are now underway with a completion date of May 14. The date of May 14 was specifically chosen to complete this project as it is the same weekend as the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima in which we celebrate 100 years this year; it is Mother’s Day weekend, and it will be done on Sunday. On May 14, the parish and school will celebrate the order of blessing.
The ceremony will include the parish family, the families and teachers of the school, members of the local community and all those who stepped up to support this project with their time, talent and treasure. Included with the order of blessing will be the May crowning of our Blessed Mother on the statue of the Holy Family, and all mothers who will be present will be blessed for Mother’s Day. King is a member of Knights of Columbus David J. Ochs Council #15813.
PHOTO: Parishioners, Knights of Columbus and local businesses are collaborating to restore a community prayer garden and the statue of the patron saint of St. Columbkille Parish in Dubuque. In the photo above, workers are laying concrete for a walkway in the shape of a cross. The project will be finished in May. (Contributed photo)