By Brigid Curtis Ayer (For The Catholic Moment)
CARMEL — Resting beneath a giant oak tree is a new place of prayer and meditation: the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Marian Prayer Garden.
More than 100 parishioners, young and old, gathered for prayer and song at the site July 18 to witness its official blessing and dedication by pastor Father Richard Doerr in honor of former longtime pastor Msgr. John Duncan.
Following the 5:30 p.m. Mass, due to the extreme heat, participants prayed the rosary in the Narthex of the church, then proceeded outside for the dedication.
The garden, which sits between the rectory and the school playground, depicts an immense rosary, with five large circular brick formations to serve as the “Our Father” beads and five sets of square stepping stones to serve as the “Hail Mary” beads.
The walkway leading up to the prayer garden winds around large pine trees flanked by beds of roses and other flowers.
At the entrance of the sidewalk is an inlaid concrete cross. At each bead rests a single brick, displaying the name of a family or memorial of family members or lost loved ones.
Msgr. Duncan, who served as pastor from 1987 to 2004, said, “It’s a unique honor and it’s something I never really expected. My hope is that all the prayers offered here would help our parish, country and world. Our country right now needs a lot of prayers.”
The prayer garden was dedicated on the same weekend that the parish celebrated its feast day of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. In the center of the garden is a marble statue of the parish patron.
Father Doerr said, “We wanted to do something to honor Msgr. Duncan for all the years of service to our parish. After discussions by our parish council and other groups at the parish, we thought the prayer garden was an ideal expression of our gratitude to Monsignor.”
Father Doerr said he is looking forward to seeing the garden used to foster group prayer and for private devotions.
“When the fall comes, I can’t wait to use it at night with candles,” he said.
Nathan Buonanno, parish stewardship director, said funds for the garden were raised during the annual “Parish Night Out” fund-raiser.
“There were many generous donations given that night and we raised $26,000 for the project,” Buonanno said.
Construction took about a month.
“Msgr. Duncan is a strong, loving, knowing priest, father and friend to so many at OLMC,” parishioner Robin Luehrmann said. “One of the advantages of going on a retreat somewhere was remembering the quiet prayer garden or the outdoor Stations of the Cross. Now we have our very own prayer garden. And to dedicate it to such an awesome person makes it even more special. I am looking forward to spending some good quality time there.”
“Anytime you can bring your faith outside, that’s a good thing. A lot of people can see us from 146th Street. We need to get used to bringing our faith outside the church walls,” parishioner Val Berger said.
Dave and Cathy Anderson, parishioners since 1988 and parents of eight children, also attended the dedication.
“It’s really an interactive rosary and it’s beautifully done. It really feels like a person is part of a life-sized rosary,” Dave Anderson said.
“This is something I could see families doing together,” Cathy Anderson said. “It’s something you could do with your kids. I can also see this as a new place where brides will come to put their flowers.”