||Bishop Robert C. Morlino speaks at the dedication of the Miracle of Life Garden in Pine Bluff on May 24, the Feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner) To see more pictures, click here.
PINE BLUFF -- An estimated 300 people gathered May 24, on the Feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, as Bishop Robert C. Morlino dedicated the new Miracle of Life Rosary Garden here.
“It was one of those moments when, gathered around our bishop we love so much, we truly felt like a Catholic family,” said Fr. Richard Heilman, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Pine Bluff. “Our Catholic beauty and identity were celebrated, beginning with a procession of some 20 altar servers, the Knights of Columbus Honor Guard, and about 50 Knights of Divine Mercy. The music was incredible as the Schola Cantorum of the Knights of Divine Mercy sang classic Latin pieces.
“And the dedication concluded with the youth releasing of a giant helium-balloon Rosary.,” he said. “Afterward, we all celebrated with a family-style potluck cookout. I knew an evening like this would leave indelible ‘Catholic’ mark, especially on the hearts of the youth gathered with us.”
The garden, presided over by Mary, Help of Christians, who stands on a flower-covered mound in the shape of her Immaculate Heart, honors children lost before birth. It is located, quite literally, beside the restful waters and verdant pastures of beautiful Pine Bluff, Wis. The sacred place was created to be a destination for solitude, prayer, and healing.
The primary feature is the garden’s center grassy area set aside as a place for people to bury babies lost before birth. More than 5,000 bricks circle the garden and are expected to bear memorials of those lost. One brick near the angel-flanked entrance to the garden already reads, “For all the babies only God has named.”
Rose bushes surround the garden and stone planters mark the decades of a Rosary that encloses the children in Mary’s embrace. A statue of St. Michael the Archangel, representing the centerpiece of the rosary, defends the garden and the babies buried in it. A row of statuesque pine trees stands behind Mary, symbolizing the 12 apostles.
“The concept for this holy site came from much prayer and reflection,” said Father Heilman. “But the first spark of inspiration came on the day we laid to rest little Gianna Karlen, the miscarried baby of Steve and Laura Karlen. Although the place we had chosen for Gianna was nice, I realized we needed a place of great dignity, serenity, and prayer for these little ones and those who mourn their loss. From that day on, I became dedicated to this project, beginning with drawings I made using coffee can lids.”
Defending the miracle of life
At the dedication May 24, many carried flowers and Rosaries. High school students released two Rosary-shaped chains of helium balloons with the word “Life” printed on them. The Knights of Divine Mercy Schola led the crowd in songs honoring Our Lady, Father Heilman led them in a Rosary, and the bishop led them in a prayer of dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The large presence of prayer on a Tuesday afternoon — a “great moment of hope” — was a sign that we are called to be the new springtime of the Church, Bishop Morlino said.
“You and your children and your grandchildren are going to be the channel through which the New Evangelization happens — and we can see it’s already begun,” he said.
The garden, which the bishop called a “beautiful sanctuary of devotion” and a “beautiful sanctuary of Truth” reminds us of the dignity of human life from conception to natural death. The grassroots effort of this garden, which sprang from local Catholics and flowered under the leadership of a good priest, is only one example of how the Holy Spirit is stirring us up throughout the world, he said.
In his homily, the bishop spoke of the miracle and mystery of life and the importance of marriage and chastity and the dangers of technologies that try to interfere with and replace the Creator. But the garden and the Christians who were there to dedicate themselves to Christ through Mary were a sign of hope in a new springtime.
They were a “mighty army” of people who have been blessed to see the mind of Christ, the bishop said. “You are the very special ones to whom Jesus has chosen to reveal the father in a very special way, and especially under the title of God’s mercy.”
In need of prayer
The Miracle of Life Rosary Garden was dedicated May 24 in honor of the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, who answers the prayers of those who seek her intercession.
The significance of Our Lady, Help of Christians hearkens back to 1571 and the Battle of Lepanto. Pope St. Pius V managed to string together the few remaining Christian armies to defend the Church that was about to receive its final blow from an invading armada of Turks. Invoking Our Lady, Help of Christians, Pius V called upon all of Europe to pray the Rosary. Miraculously, the outnumbered army of Christians won the battle, and Pius V then declared Mary to be named, Our Lady of Victory.
Later, in 1862, St. John Bosco dreamed about the battles the Church would face in the latter days. In his dream, the pope of those days anchors the “ship” of the Church between two pillars, one with a statue of Mary (Auxilium Christianorum or “Help of Christians”) and the other with a large Eucharistic Host. St. John Bosco wrote: “The principal objective is to promote veneration of the Blessed Sacrament and devotion to Mary, Help of Christians. This title seems to please the august Queen of Heaven very much.”
Today, the invading armies are the modernist and secular forces that have paved the way for what Blessed Pope John Paul II referred to as “the culture of death,” Father Heilman said. “We believe these demonic forces will crumble all around us as we fall to our knees in adoration of our Eucharistic Lord and invoke the powerful intercession of our Lady who was allotted with crushing the head of Satan.”
“Miracle of Life” is a phrase with profound meaning. It recognizes life as a miracle and, therefore, as sacred. But it also confirms our belief in miracles, that God is provident, that He has a divine plan.
“We truly believe this sacred place will see many miracles,” says Father Heilman, “as we unite our prayers with our Lady’s and all of these unborn baby prayer warriors.”
Bricks are available to be inscribed with memorials. For more information on the garden, visit www.rosarygarden.org or call St. Mary Parish, Pine Bluff, at 608-798-2111.