It seemed like something God wanted from the very beginning.
Whenever an obstacle to building the new Memorial Prayer Garden outside St. Ann Church in Warsaw came up, the Lord took every opportunity to take care of it.
“Honestly, if God wasn’t behind this, I’d lose everything betting on it,” said David Grimes, president of the St. Ann Parish Pastoral Council. “Because whenever we needed something or we needed someone to do something, there it was.”
The Memorial Prayer Garden consists of a brick-paved plaza leading to an arc-shaped, illuminated grotto framing a statue of the Blessed Mother.
A granite plaque on one of the endcaps contains a laser-etched image of the original St. Ann Church, which served the parish from 1945 to 1996.
The plaque on the opposite side tells the story of the parish’s first 75 years.
Lights illuminate the Blessed Mother statue and the trees behind it at night.
Fourteen Stations of the Cross are embedded in the wall below the grotto.
Paver bricks sponsored by parishioners and friends are engraved with the names of loved ones.
Benches have been placed along the walkway.
“It will be for a very long time a place where people will want to sit, reflect, pray or just be still and take in the scenery,” said Mr. Grimes.
Father Benjamin Nwosu, pastor of St. Ann Parish and of St. Bernadette Parish in Hermitage and the Mission of Ss. Peter and Paul in Cole Camp, dedicated the Memorial Prayer Garden after Mass on Sunday, Oct. 29.
“It’s a beautiful addition to our parish,” Fr. Nwosu stated. “On many occasions Jesus withdrew with his disciples to a quiet place to pray. St. Ann’s Memorial Prayer Garden will be for our parishioners, our friends and everyone visiting us, a special place to visit, to pray, to reflect and to treasure the memories of our loved ones, both the living and those who once journeyed with us.”
Mr. Grimes noted that the garden was a community effort.
“We needed the support of the whole parish to get it done,” he said. “They really stepped up to the plate.”
In loving memory
Seeds for the garden were planted about six years ago, shortly after the death of longtime parishioner Jack Krier.
His wife, Kathy, had seen a prayer garden at the hospital where Mr. Krier was treated, and she brought the idea back to St. Ann with her.
It started out simple, with Boy Scouts clearing some land on the church property and turning it into a contemplative space.
Parishioner Don Wilde liked what had been done but thought the parish could take it even farther. He had seen a memorial in Texas that included a walkway paved with memorial bricks that were paid for by parishioners.
“Don wanted it to be a place where people could sit outside and enjoy the church property,” said Mr. Grimes. “This was a perfect place to make that happen.”
The parish serves a stable year-round population along with vacationers and sporting enthusiasts at nearby Truman Lake and the Lake of the Ozarks.
Mr. Wilde saw that the garden could serve two purposes: “one, to have a really nice way to remember people, and two, for it to be a small fundraiser for the parish,” said Mr. Grimes.
The idea was coming together in October of 2022 when Mr. Wilde died in a car accident.
“It was Don’s passion to get this built,” Mr. Grimes noted. “His family got behind it. So did I.”
Mr. Grimes started looking for a builder who could help design a memorial and figure out the cost.
He eventually sought out the contractor who had built the German Immigrant Memorial in nearby Cole Camp.
His name is Mike Chavers, who lives on a farm outside Stover.
They set a time to meet at St. Ann Church and started taking notes and making drawings.
“Within an hour, we knew what we were going to do,” Mr. Grimes recalled, adding, “It was Mike’s idea to put a big statue of Mary in the center.”
The memorial garden was to be built solidly and beautifully, but the projected cost could have stopped it in its tracks.
“We needed the backing of parishioners sponsoring the paver bricks, so we got that process going,” said Mr. Grimes.
The Wilde family came forward with a significant contribution in Don Wilde’s memory. Other parishioners enthusiastically joined them.
“By that time, it had become clear that this thing was doable,” said Mr. Grimes.
Mr. Chavers got busy building the garden and finished up about a month ago.
“It’s made of stone and concrete and brick,” said Mr. Grimes. “It’s built to stand for ages.”
It extends north from the main walkway near the church entrance to a large pine tree in the churchyard.
The bricks are set in sand above leveled and packed gravel with a drainage system underneath.
“It’s designed not to need a lot of maintenance,” said Mr. Grimes. “The way he did it, I don’t think it’s going to give us any trouble at all.”
A time to celebrate
Parishioners and Fr. Nwosu set Oct. 29 for the dedication.
The regular 8:30 a.m. Sunday Mass was moved to 10 a.m., followed by the dedication, then a luncheon prepared and served by parishioners.
“We invited everyone who had a part in (the garden), including the Wilde family,” said Mr. Grimes. “Most of them came.”
It was a bit cold and wet, but the rain held back just enough for the blessing to take place.
Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus in full regalia served as the honor guard, saluting with their polished swords as Fr. Nwosu pronounced the blessing and mixed holy water with the cool mist.
“I love our Memorial Prayer Garden,” said Fr. Nwosu. “I am grateful to God and to all who made it possible.”
The parish plans to engrave more bricks for the garden twice each year.
“More and more names will be added as the years go by,” said Mr. Grimes. “People will be enjoying it and remembering long after we’re all gone.”