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New Prayer Garden plans look forward

Behind the Abbey at Benedictine College lies the lookout, a popular place to sit and watch the Missouri river or attend morning prayer, but it is more commonly referred to as the hotspot for proposals. In the coming months, the lookout will be transformed into a prayer garden, with a dedication ceremony mid-Sept.  

The lookout will be called “The Holy Family’s Return to Nazareth Prayer Garden”.   

The Abbey was approached by a generous donor who wanted a statue created of the Holy Family as they were returning to Nazareth from Jerusalem in Luke 2:51-52.  

“Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man,” the passage says 

The statue is to meant to emphasize the obedience Christ had to his mother and father, as well as his heavenly father. 

Director of Operations and Finance for the Abbey, Dwight Stephenson, is the head of overseeing the project construction. Stephenson and the monks hope the project will create a space of experiencing the beauty of the bluffs but in a prayerful manner. 

[We want] to create a prayerful place to remind students that they are moving from campus to Abbey Land, that this is sacred space,” Stephenson said.   

Abbot James hopes those who see the statues will reflect on the passage through Lectio Divina. 

“Our hope is people will enter into this and think, ‘What is my obedience to the Father?” Abbot James said. “How am I discerning what God is asking me?”  

The statues built will display a 12-year-old Christ-following behind Mary and Joseph, with one hand stretched toward them as a sign of obedience, and the other in the direction of the garden entrance, asking others to follow Him.  

Following the donor’s proposal, the monastic community liked the idea of the statues with a prayer garden and asked architecture professor, Dr. John Haigh, to see if any students would like to be involved.  

Senior Margaret Jones, 2019 graduated Adele Bischel, and 2012 graduate Kate Marin, were the three students involved in the project. 

Jones and Bischel completed the design for last year’s Discovery Day project and got bids from contractors for the landscape, while Dr. Haigh put together the final technical drawings of the garden. 

When figuring out the sculpture’s design, the students and Stephenson never found any past art designs relating to the scripture, making this sculpture design of the Holy Family’s return to Nazareth a first.  

“After two thousand years, you would think someone would have done something with this, but from what we can find, we have not found any,” Stephenson said. 

After returning from studying Sculpture in Florence, Italy, Marin began here first commission, creating the sculptures of the Holy Family.  

The clay molded sculptures were just completed in Feb. and are being placed in Bronze overlayer. The garden will begin this spring, weather dependent, so the Lookout area will be under construction in the coming weeks.   

The garden is expected to be completed and open to the public in the Fall before the Holy Family statues arrive.  


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