By Dan Russo
DUBUQUE — Visual representations of God’s grace, expressed through art and nature, are now enhancing life in a faith-filled corner of Dubuque. A large contingent of the St. Columbkille community came out May 14 to mark the completion of a major renovation to the parish school’s prayer garden.
The project, which involved contributions of time, skills and finances from many individuals and local businesses, took about one year to complete. A procession including the school choir, first communicants, Presentation Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Knights of Columbus and others kicked off the dedication ceremonies at the space on Rush Street in Dubuque.
“I saw a young man gazing from inside the school outside to the prayer garden,” said St. Columbkille Principal Barb Roling during the ceremonies. “I asked him, ‘What does it make you think or feel when you look at it?’ and without hesitation, he said to me, ‘There are a lot of people who really care about us.’ That statement summarizes the experience that this whole prayer garden has displayed. It was the community that began the project, but then the project brought in more community.”
Father Gabriel Anderson, pastor of the parish, blessed a refurbished statue of St. Columbkille and two new custom built statues of the Holy Family and the Divine Child Jesus. New hedges, mulch and a brick walkway in the shape of a Celtic cross now decorate the plot between the old and new school buildings. During the dedication, a delegation from the Presentation Sisters accepted a lantern, the symbol of their order. They were honored for their contributions to the school and parish. The lantern now adorns the entrance to the garden.
“The students will be reminded that God worked through these men and women and all the men and women that came before us, are present with us and will come after us,” said Roling, calling the garden “a place of prayer and reflection.”
A crowning of Mary was performed as part of the event, which also celebrated the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima. 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 the 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 had been weathered by the elements over the years and was in need of repair. In 2016, plans were drafted to create a prayer garden. Work and support was provided by Eric Hemmer (St. Columbkille parishioner) of Gierke Robinson Company. The council also worked with the local Horsfield Construction, Inc., Portzen Construction and River City Paving Company. Mulch that was donated by Addoco. Help for the walkway came from Paul Decker and Deacon Loras Weber and his family and crew in September 2016. Many others also donated in various ways.
PHOTO: St. Columbkille parishioners John and Ellie Freund (back) are pictured with first communicants in front of the new Holy Family statue. The couple crowned Mary as part of the ceremonies. (Photo by Melissa King)