Garden Blessed, Mary Honored
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
December 3, 2020

ROCKFORD—St. Bridget parishioner Brian DeNolf came to the Nov. 21 Mass and blessing of the new Our Lady of Guadalupe prayer garden dressed in a jacket featuring the Blessed Mother under that title.

“It’s very inspired for this community to have something like this (garden) with the way things are going, you know, with the violence and everything and COVID,” he said. “We need something to inspire us.”

His jacket showed his devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, particularly for her connection to the prolife effort, he said.

Cathedral of St. Peter parishioner Larry McCoy had already been over to check out the garden since the Nov. 4 installation of the statue.

“When I first looked at it, it was almost like she’s looking right through you,” he said. “It was kind of a movie moment. Hopefully it will stay without harm.”

Bishop David Malloy referred to the story of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe in his homily at the early morning Mass, held on the feast of the Presentation of Mary.

After at first failing the task she had given to him, an ashamed St. Juan was attempting to avoid Mary, but then she appeared to him again. He attempted to explain his failure, and her response was to say simply, “Am I not your mother?”

“In a personal and individual way, Mary is the mother of all of us,” Bishop Malloy said. “And Mary is also the mother of each one of us.”

Expressing hopes for the new prayer garden, he said it was put “here on Signal Hill as a place where people from this area can come, be they Catholics or not. (They can) come for a moment of prayer, come for a moment of peace, come for a moment of spiritual reflection. It will become a place for people of different cultures, and races throughout the city …

“It is hoped (the garden) will draw Mary’s children from throughout the whole wide confines of the Diocese of Rockford and beyond (to be) one of those places for pilgrimage or simply (for visitors to say) ‘We haven’t seen that before … let’s say a prayer …’”

The new statue looks toward the Cathedral, the bishop noted, saying that “In a sense (she is) looking (here) with the eyes of a mother to this diocese, which is consecrated to her. (She is) joining her prayers to all of the prayers of the Diocese of Rockford.”

Following Bishop Malloy’s blessing of the statue, Patrick Winn, outgoing director of Catholic Charities for the diocese who was involved in the planning and execution of the garden, asked each person who was present to take one of many large, pink roses he had brought and to lay them at the feet of the statue. He also invited everyone to sign the drawing of the plans for the garden.

Rockford city alderman Chad Tuneberg, who supported the diocese in its effort to take down its former chancery building upon which the garden now will grow, attended the blessing.

After all the “unfortunate” controversy over the building, Tuneberg said he thought the new garden is “a beautiful part of the church (and) of the neighborhood as well.”

Joseph Altenhoff of Arc Design, a parishioner at Holy Family, said the garden “has more meaning than the standard, typical job … I’m proud to be part of it. It is certainly probably one of the better projects that I’ve ever worked on.”

Patti Thayer of Thayer Lighting attended the blessing also. “The first feeling I got when I drove up here was peaceful,” she said, “and what a nice place for the time we’re in right now.”

Jamin Unger of Stenstrom said he sees the garden as “a real asset not only for the cathedral parish, but also for the neighborhood. And (it) brings new life and new meaning to this corner in our diocese.

“It’s been a wonderful project for us,” he said, adding, “we were glad to help and we certainly hope it’s a great thing for the community.”

Most at the little gathering did what comes naturally in such a spot: pausing while looking up into the face of the statue and saying a prayer.

Judy McGee of the cathedral parish echoed many people’s thoughts when she said, “Oh, it’s beautiful, it’s absolutely beautiful. We’re thrilled to have it.”


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