Pictured is the Rosary Garden on the campus of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton, which was erected by members of the parish’s Filipino community.  Photo courtesy of Jay Jonolo
Pictured is the Rosary Garden on the campus of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton, which was erected by members of the parish’s Filipino community. Photo courtesy of Jay Jonolo

Rosary prayer gardens can offer the faithful the opportunity to walk through winding pathways amidst statuary, landscaped lands and water features which unite to create the perfect, contemplative backdrop for prayer.

Such is the scene in Mount Laurel, a tranquil respite near St. John Neumann Parish that offers a walk with the Blessed Mother in mind. Once the grounds of the Cistercian Monastery, Mount Laurel township officials brokered the sale of the site in 2018 to preserve it and the lands as permanent greenspace.

A nonprofit 501(c)3 charity, the Friends of the Cistercian Monastery was formed by concerned parishioners to care for the 14 acres, which encompassed a sprawling Rosary prayer garden, named Our Lady of Fatima Prayer Garden, with life-size statues currently representing the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, as well as a small home named for Our Lady of Fatima.

About 40 overgrown trees were removed from the property, and numerous paving stones for the walkway were installed, reported parishioner Albert Van Sciver. “Many people, including the Knights of Columbus volunteered,” he said. “Their labor and work was amazing.”

The newly refurbished Rosary prayer garden is well-used, hosting about 70 people per day and a group that meets after St. John Neumann’s 10 a.m. Sunday Mass.

“The Knights of Columbus hold a large Rosary Rally each October, and another group holds one-day retreats in the Fatima house,” added Knight and board trustee Mike Miller. “We hope in the near future to expand use to the greater Catholic community and beyond.”

Future plans for the garden include installation of statues depicting the Luminous Mysteries, and a nearby museum depicting the history of the grounds.

Miller explained his involvement in the ongoing project as a matter of faith. “I have a belief in the creation of the environment, the spiritual and the physical,” he said. “It’s an extraordinary thing, and you don’t find that much anymore. There is a faith-renewing serenity in the Rosary garden.

“I embrace this as a part of my faith. You go through the decades of the Rosary there and can be refreshed. We need to make this more recognized, and need awareness of our faith renewal.”

NATURE HONORS THE VIRGIN

A Rosary prayer garden built in 2016 on behalf of Hamilton’s St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish Filipino community (SRHAFC) continues to serve as a magnet to those who wish to honor Mary our Mother. Rachael Baisas-Janolo, creator of the garden, described the inception and design of the beauteous spot and its natural elements.

“I have always been devoted to the Blessed Mother,” Baisas-Janolo, a sculptor and interior designer, began. “We had a statue, but no garden. We wanted to have people come and visit it, bring more people to propagate the Rosary.

“It was so clear to me – [the garden] should be a semblance of the Rosary with a Cross in the middle,” she continued. After sketching the design and getting the pastor’s approval, Baisas-Janolo turned to her husband, Jorge, a landscaper by trade, for his horticultural guidance.

“The five Mystery gardens have a square gravel flooring with a pebbled big star shape in the center,” Baisas-Janolo said. “Three of the mystery gardens have a large boulder and two brick benches for seating. They are connected by 10 decades of round stepping stones to resemble Rosary beads.”

In addition to a working fountain of natural stone, natural elements abound.

“The garden is surrounded by arborvitae, boxwood shrubs, lavender, peonies, roses, seasonal flowers, dogwood trees, hydrangea trees, groundcovers and even a grapevine,” she said. “The pergola/canopy is covered with wisteria.”

The Marian gift attracts many to pray to the Virgin, Baisas-Janolo said happily.

“It was a dream come true for a lot of people,” she said, “and it made my heart joyous. I saw people coming from all over to pray fervently. It was such a blessing I didn’t foresee. You can feel Mary’s presence.”

IN MEMORY OF GRANDPA

The desire to honor his beloved grandfather’s passing is prompting a future Eagle Scout to complete a Rosary prayer garden. On the grounds of Assumption Church, a worship site of St. Isidore the Farmer Parish, New Egypt, is where Matthew Adamski, a 15-year-old sophomore in Allentown High School, and member of New Egypt’s Boy Scout Troop 109, was prompted to undertake the construction of an outdoor place to pray to Our Lady. “My grandfather prayed the Rosary every day,” he said.

Last spring, Adamski crafted plans for a 40’ by 40’ plot on the Wrightstown worship site, with concrete walkways in the shape of a heart. The interior of the pathways was adorned with flowers and shrubs. “I found a list somewhere of Marian flowers like roses and hydrangeas,” the teen said.

Upon the walkways, prayer beads were stamped and stained upon the concrete, each decade labelled with a small sign indicating the four sets of Mysteries corresponding with the beads. Wooden benches flanked the paths, both angled towards the center where a statue of the Blessed Mother would stand.

To finance the project, vendors discounted their materials and labor, the parish held an Easter flower fundraiser, and parishioners donated funds towards the project. But the death of Richard Anton, Adamski’s beloved maternal grandfather (or “dziadziu” in Polish), whose funeral Mass was held in the parish’s Assumption worship site, presented the teen with a bittersweet opportunity to fund the parish’s Rosary prayer garden.

Anton’s newspaper obituary concluded with an invitation to share his love of the Rosary by assisting his grandson.

“In lieu of flowers, the family humbly asks to offer donations in memory of Rich to support his grandson Matthew’s Eagle Scout project,” it read. “Matthew is installing a Rosary Prayer Garden at the Church of the Assumption that he will dedicate in his Dziadziu’s memory.”

The Rosary prayer garden is nearly complete; it awaits the arrival of a statue of the Blessed Mother being shipped from overseas and a plaque engraved in his grandfather’s honor. Adamski expressed gratitude towards all that helped him make his Eagle Scout project a reality, saying, “I had an immense amount of help. The people were amazing. Thanks to all the parishioners, family and friends who helped along the way.”