Stay and Pray at the Renovated Peace Garden

Peace Garden

Earth-house, soil-shrine:

syllables of seeds.

Head-ground, heart-bed:

memory and dream.

Light of a spirit-garden where peace words spring.

– Kevin Crossley-Holland

The St. Thomas peace garden, created in 1994 on the south end of the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas, originally featured a plaque with this poem. The focal point of the garden, however, had been around for much longer.

A statue of Mary, known as the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace, continues to bask in these poetic descriptors despite the plaque’s removal. She was given to the university by the College and Academy Mothers Club and was blessed and dedicated to St. Thomas on Oct. 15, 1950, by Father Vincent Flynn. The sculpture is a memorial to more than 175 St. Thomas alumni who gave up their lives during World War I and II.

During the dedication Flynn, former president of the university, said the College and Academy Mothers Club “succeeded in contributing to the beauty of the campus; they have done something to keep green the memory of our veterans; and they have provided a sheltered retreat where students, faculty and guests may add to their chapel devotions a quiet prayer outdoors.”

The garden surrounding Mary was planted during the first St. Thomas Peace Festival in 1994 and, despite the best efforts of volunteers who tended the area over the years, it became overgrown: a serene yet crowded thatch of Mother Nature’s beauty.

Father Larry Snyder, vice president for mission, said that because of this, the statue of Our Lady of Peace was fairly hidden and had lost much of its previous significance. This is what prompted a peace garden renovation during summer 2016, adding to the Queen of Peace’s 66-year history.

St. Francis

Peace Garden

 

The project broke ground Aug. 1 and was substantially completed by Aug. 26. Our Lady of Peace’s home behind the chapel is now streamlined, open and welcoming with semiprivate areas for prayer and contemplation. The clearing, a new oval lawn space within the garden, provides an area for gatherings such as group prayer or after Masses or wedding receptions.

Snyder hopes the new garden can be used for religious purposes such as saying the rosary, but, he said, “with the Peace Pole also being prominently featured, it is welcoming to anyone who needs a calm place. I think the design helps the garden to live up to its name.”

The renovated space serves not only as an outdoor extension of the chapel, but also as a more beautiful setting adjacent to a main entrance of the Admissions Office. The area features new plants such as juniper hedges and catmint.

Facilities Management oversaw the renovation and hired local landscape architect Damon Farber to come up with the new layout. Associate Vice President for Facilities Jim Brummer called the new garden unique to campus, “inviting and visible,” and said he is excited to have the new landscape.

“As the plants grow over the years, the space will become more intimate,” Brummer said. Side lighting, lighting for Mary and a pergola will be added over the next few months as final additions to the renovation.

Luigi Bernardi ’85 B.A., ’89 MBA and the Bernardi family underwrote the renovation. “The generous donors who made this possible were married in the chapel and so it is a special place for them,” Snyder said. “They want to provide a beautiful, peaceful place on campus for students and visitors.”

Snyder noted that people already are using and appreciating the new garden, walking along paths of crushed granite, and stopping to smell the blooming white and purple flowers.

“Now it is a place of tranquility, calm and beauty that welcomes people to stop and rest for a while,” he said.

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