Abby Hoover
Managing Editor

St. Anthony Parish at 309 Benton Blvd. broke ground on the morning of Friday, May 14, on its much anticipated prayer garden.

The parish has been working toward a prayer garden since before the pandemic began.

“We were thinking to beautify this space, but also to have a meaningful place for people to pray,” Fr. Andres Moreno said. “What is going to happen is we are going to put the bricks we’re selling in the shape of a cross, and then people will find their names there.”

The parish has already purchased a fountain, a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and benches, which stand ready inside, waiting to be installed.

This latest project is also in preparation for the parish’s centennial celebration next year. Late last year the sanctuary’s ceiling was repainted and other areas of the building have been spruced up.

Moreno read a story in a Catholic magazine about the transformational power of a prayer garden in a similar urban neighborhood, which encouraged him to take on this project.

“A bishop allowed a priest to put a prayer garden in Chicago in one of those areas that is kind of tough and bad… suddenly, little by little, people started changing and you saw people who were from the gangs passing by and doing the sign of the cross,” Moreno said. “They said that the whole neighborhood transformed because of the presence of the prayer garden, and I said well, this is an opportunity to make it happen, too, not only to be pretty but also for a spiritual site.”

With consistent foot traffic from The Concourse nearby, he hopes people outside of his 300-member congregation will feel welcome at the prayer garden.

The project has been delayed because of weather, COVID and materials. They had been waiting for congregants to purchase enough bricks inscribed with the names of loved ones before they began the project, and eventually had to set a deadline to increase the price of the bricks to encourage members to purchase sooner rather than later.

“We said, ‘If you don’t buy your brick now, then after the garden is put [in] and everything is ready, you can still put a brick with your name and everything but it will cost double because we need to modify all of that,’” Moreno said. “People started coming, coming, coming, and we have more bricks now. Now we have the money to build.”

A few of the crew working on the project attend the church, and the rest traveled from as far as Belton. Moreno was excited when the crew let him know the rain would hold off long enough for them to get started demolishing the existing concrete last Friday.

Cathy Hernandez, who was previously on staff at Sacred Heart of Guadalupe for over two decades, has worked at St. Anthony’s for seven years.

“We have some really cool pictures that I’ve found on different internet sites of what it was before, like they had a fountain here before,” Hernandez said, standing in the middle of the soon-to-be prayer garden.

Recently, the paved space surrounded by a wrought iron fence at the southwest corner of the church has been used to host celebrations, vigils, receptions and different gatherings.

“It’ll be a good space for people to just pray or just to sit, it’ll be nice,” Hernandez said. “Everybody’s very excited about it, they’re excited about the bricks. We had a good amount of people who were from the community before who have bought bricks for the courtyard, too, because they have roots in the church.”

The parish has returned to regular services, and hosted a movie night on Friday showing “Fatima”. Moreno is optimistic about the number of vaccines that have been administered in the state so the congregation can get back to regular fellowship.

He anticipates the project will take a week and a half, depending on weather, and hopes to celebrate when it is finished.