Appleton parish dedicates new rosary garden

By Amanda Lauer | For The Compass | October 5, 2016

APPLETON — Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish is known for having beautiful gardens on its property. When it came time to update the triangular-shaped garden that runs along Fremont Street, Mary Beth Nienhaus was inspired to suggest the parish create a rosary garden.

The idea appealed to fellow parishioner Peggy Blank, who works with the buildings and grounds committee and is considered the head gardener for Sacred Heart. The project was approved by Fr. Don Zuleger, pastor, and the women, with the help of Mary Low and Mary Zovnic, went to work studying the concept and visiting other rosary gardens in the area, including the one at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay.

Fr. Don Zuleger, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Appleton, dedicates a newly completed rosary garden Oct. 2 on the church’s south side. In the background is St. Elizabeth Hospital. (Brad Birkholz | For The Compass)
Fr. Don Zuleger, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Appleton, dedicates a newly completed rosary garden Oct. 2 on the church’s south side. In the background is St. Elizabeth Hospital. (Brad Birkholz | For The Compass)

It took many hours to design and build the garden, and on the first weekend of October, which is the month of the rosary, the garden was blessed after each Mass.

Blank plans for the rosary garden began in the spring of 2015. “We prepped the area last fall. This spring we started doing the base work for the center mound that goes around the Mary statue,” she said. “The beads are round, 18-inch stepping stones that we had made — we painted a rose on each one of those. We have 24-inch pavers for the Our Fathers, also with a rose design.

“We’re having a medallion made that connects the other part of the rosary. It will have our parish symbol, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, painted on,” she added.

A campaign was kicked off last spring to help pay for the rosary garden. “Within a couple of days we had almost the entire garden sponsored,” noted Blank.

Every component of a rosary garden has significance. “We have plant markers that we’re going to label the plants, their name, what the significant meaning is, if they’re referred to in the Bible, the Bible verse,” said Blank. “Most of them will have some connection to Mary because almost every flower has some Marian meaning if you look it up.”

A showcase, which will be displayed by the garden, is currently in the design stages. It will have a diagram of the rosary and designate which items were donated by whom.

The garden is not only meant to help parishioners from Sacred Heart in their walk of faith but members of other parishes, children in faith formation classes and the Appleton community. “Because we are right across from St. Elizabeth Hospital, it’s an evangelization tool,” said Nienhaus.

The statues in the garden have spotlights that turn on automatically when it is dusk, there is lighting under the retaining wall surrounding the statue of the Blessed Mother, and there are lights on the church building so the space can be utilized even at night.

It has been a meaningful endeavor for Blank, who was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. “Working on the garden gave me something else to focus on other than chemo treatments,” she said. “It gave me a reason to get going each day and not dwell on my condition. It became sort of a thank you to my parish family that supported me through treatments.”

It was satisfying to see it all come together, she added. “It’s almost like God’s hand was guiding us (in) how it would all fall into place.”

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