Many hands create beautiful landscape at St. Nicholas in Carver

| Abby Vakulskas | August 18, 2017 | 1 Comment

Donna Jarosch of St. John the Baptist in Savage does some weeding and trimming in the garden at St. Nicholas in Carver. Though not a member of the parish, she comes twice a week to work in the garden. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

On a half-hour’s drive southwest from Minneapolis, the scenery transitions from the freeway’s Renaissance Festival billboards to rolling hills and farmsteads.

It is here in the historic town of Carver, with some 4,000 people, that members of St. Nicholas are working on a project that is strengthening the community and drawing visitors from across the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The idea for a prayer garden began took root when parishioners wanted to add a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the entrance of the parking lot to welcome people to the church. Through more conversations, the statue turned into a grotto. Finally, after several location changes, additions and discussions, the prayer garden was born. Parishioners broke ground in June 2015.

Stones placed on a pathway create a rosary walk in the garden. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

In addition to the grotto, the one-acre garden’s manicured lawns and pathways include the Stations of the Cross and a rosary walk amid flowers, benches and trellises.

“It’s been a design-build kind of thing, where we’ve taken everybody’s ideas and suggestions over the years, and we keep building and improving,” said Jodee Korkowski, the parish’s business administrator.

Located behind the historic church, the project has been an enormous community effort and is the product of countless hands working together to create something meaningful.

“It’s mind-boggling how many people helped with this that were in our parish, out of our parish, people who are not Catholic,” said Jerry Anderson, a parishioner who helped organize much of the construction. “Just an absolutely amazing number of people have helped with this process.”

St. Nicholas parishioners have played a major role in the project, but the garden drew volunteers from Carver, Chaska, Jordan and elsewhere, who have pitched in with physical labor, donations and fundraising to make the space possible.

A yellow rose grows in a section of the garden featuring roses of different colors. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

“It is not one man’s idea,” said Father Thomas Joseph, pastor of the 400-family parish. “It is a collective people. Everything we do, we want to do the best for the glory of God.”

The garden has been carefully designed, with several significant features to inspire visitors.

“The whole thing is that one thing leads to another,” Father Joseph said of how visitors can move through the garden and its different paths. For example, the gravel path by the Stations of the Cross is purposely rugged as opposed to the more polished rosary path. A row of boulders provides places to sit and rest, as well as symbolizing the Twelve Apostles.

A particularly important piece, Father Joseph and Korkowski said, is the grotto for Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was constructed with several different types of stone and will eventually be completed by Twin Cities artist Glenn Terry with bronze statues of Our Lady and Juan Diego.

“Our congregation is about 50-50 English and Spanish-speaking,” Korkowski said. “So, we felt that Guadalupe is a huge part of what we do here … and that was part of our initial inspiration, too — to have the statue of [Our Lady of] Guadalupe.”

The parish hopes the grotto will be especially meaningful to the large Hispanic community at St. Nicholas. Likewise, Father Joseph and Korkowski say they hope to add more statues that represent the diversity of the Church.

“With a lot of different cultures and different backgrounds, different groups have certain saints who are very inspirational to them. So, we’re trying to have something different for everybody,” Korkowski explained.

The people of St. Nicholas hesitate to say when the garden will be finished. Some statuary, including a piece representing the Resurrection at the end of the Stations of the Cross, have yet to be selected; Korkowski said they are still waiting for divine inspiration. However, the project will continuously be a work in progress.

“It will be complete enough for people to come, which they are, but also big enough for continual growth,” Father Joseph said. “In a way, it never will be done.”

The parish hopes the garden will be an educational and spiritually meaningful space for all visitors, regardless of background or belief. Parishioners have already noted high traffic in the garden, and Archbishop Bernard Hebda has visited. Those involved are optimistic about the garden’s future.

“There’s something for everyone there, and they can feel at peace,” said contributor Dave Siwek, who has seen many similar prayer gardens around the country. “This is something people from all over the world are going to visit.”

Parishioner Stephanie Svoboda agreed.

“I would invite anyone and everyone to stop by, and I am confident they will also find the prayer garden as comforting as we do.”

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  • Charles C.

    Congratulations and thanks to those who create beauty and peace. Granted, it’s a lot easier in some settings than others, but I’ll take what I can get.