With overgrown grass, weeds and a few small trees, it was easy to overlook the courtyard at St. Robert Catholic Church in Shorewood.
But Friar Dennis Dirkx and a few parishioners had a vision and gave the grounds an extreme makeover earlier this year. The old vegetation was removed in April.
In its place is a rose garden, consisting of 68 bushes, that is adorned by other plantings, including low boxwood hedges. The area is enhanced by other décor, including benches and plaques obtained from an art studio in Italy. A walkway consisting of crushed stone outlines the perimeter of the courtyard.
The area has been christened Mary’s Garden — a nod to the large statue of the Virgin Mary that was added to the courtyard soon after its inception in 1962.
“I think most parishioners didn’t even know the courtyard ever existed,” St. Robert member and volunteer Dave Olson said. “This is an opportunity for the parishioners to make better use of the grounds.”
Dirkx said he feels the once-over will enhance parishioners’ experiences on Sunday or any other day of the week.
“This is a great place to spend quiet time, pray and just get away,” he said. “It’s such a nice space now. We’re even having wedding pictures taken here. People are having them here, instead of in the sanctuary.”
Olson and fellow volunteer and parishioner Jerry Davis spearheaded the effort to revamp the grounds, which were officially dedicated in mid-August.
“I was very interested in this,” Davis said. “This was a good project to work on. I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoons working out here, along with the planning and organizing.”
Dirkx said he had toyed with the idea of having the courtyard revamped over the past several years, but there was uncertainty about what would go in the space.
Olson said he found inspiration during a visit to Chateau St. Jean in Sonoma, Calif. Mary’s Garden, he said, is loosely based on what he saw during his travels.
All landscaping materials were purchased thanks to a bequest from the estate of a former parishioner.
Dave Fidlin can be reached at (262) 446-6603.
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