By Beth Donze
Dressed in casual attire and toting folding chairs, the 40 or so people who gathered outside St. Francis Xavier Church on a recent Thursday night could easily have been mistaken for parents and grandparents heading to a loved one’s sporting event.
However, a much more significant event was luring them to parish grounds: meeting Jesus, through his mother Mary, at the inaugural “Rosary for Life” prayed inside St. Francis Xavier’s bucolic Memorial Garden and Pavilion of the Unborn.
The 6 p.m. rosary will become a permanent offering at the Metairie parish, 444 Metairie Road, on the third Thursday of the month.
“Nobody else has a garden of this scale, that I know of, dedicated to the unborn,” said Msgr. Andrew Taormina, before leading the faithful through pro-life-themed meditations on the Luminous Mysteries at the rosary’s Sept. 21 debut.
The prayers of all who visit the site are enhanced by two features set within the garden’s striking, octagon-shaped pavilion: a soaring statue of the Blessed Mother and Child, perched at the center of the space; and 20 stained-glass squares created by New Orleans artist Ruth Goliwas, depicting the four sets of mysteries. Each set of mysteries can be viewed, in chronological order, in the transoms of four pavilion entrances. They cast an ever-changing display of color and light on interior walls.
Stations of Cross planned
The garden component of the memorial radiates from the pavilion and features red-brick pathways, four benches for prayer and reflection, and lush plantings of crape myrtles, camellias, azaleas, boxwood, agapanthus and Muhly grass. A large statue of the Pieta anchors one corner of the green space.
The eight-sided pavilion structure, designed by architect Steve Finegan, offers “the best of both worlds” to those who pray within its confines: It is an “indoor” space offering four additional benches, ceiling fans and dusk-sensitive interior lighting, yet it retains an open-air feel courtesy of door-less portals that offer visitors views of the surrounding gardens, no matter where they are seated.
Memorial floor plaques, inscribed by donors in memory of named or unnamed babies, circle the foot of the statue of the Blessed Mother and Child.Yet another enhancement is planned for the pavilion’s interior. St. Francis Xavier Parish is seeking individuals and groups interested in making donations toward the installation of stations of the cross plaques on the pavilion’s eight, two-sided pillars. Ultimately, all 15 stations, including the Resurrection (and a 16th plaque depicting a cross), will enable the faithful to meditate on Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.
The monthly Rosary for the Unborn is coordinated by the Evening Rosary Group initiated by St. Francis Xavier’s “Sharing Program” of two dozen special-interest courses. The current schedule offers field trips and classes in French, Spanish, dance, music, art, exercise, local history and genealogy.
The parish would like to make the monthly Rosary for Life a community prayer event. All are invited to the garden, located next to the church on the Avenue B side of the parish campus, on third Thursdays at 6 p.m. Ample parking is available.
Priests are also needed to sign up to lead the monthly rosary. For more information on any of these opportunities, call Carol Pritchard at 835-6809, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beth Donze can be reached at email@example.com.