Alumni, staff, students and parents of Cardinal Spellman High School in Brockton worked together to build a Garden of Reflection with a multicultural Stations of the Cross at the school. The cooperation of alumni, the community and school’s religion department made the June 27 dedication ceremony possible, said development director Maryellen Keteltas.
The garden sits behind the convent and next to the school. A black iron gate marks the entrance near the first station. The ground, once covered in asphalt, is now covered with painted and stenciled concrete that gives the appearance of a stone path. Short vines grab at the bottom of white lattice to the right. In the distance is the school’s baseball field.
A freestanding stained glass windowpane framed in mahogany marks each station. The path meanders from station to station, over new sod and surrounded by flowers and saplings until it reaches the final pane depicting a butterfly that symbolizes Christ’s resurrection. In keeping with the garden’s multicultural theme, Jesus is depicted in the scenes with a distinctively ethnic appearance.
"The transformation in that space is unbelievable," said principal Sister Thomasine Knowlton, CSJ. "It was ratty."
Now people walk through the garden every day, sometimes sitting on the benches and eating lunch. “It will be a place of reflection, peace and prayer that’s open to the community,” said Sister Thomasine. “This place just seemed to emanate the peace and the love and the spirit.”
Both Sister Thomasine and Keteltas are very proud of the project, what it provides to the community and the positive response the garden has received. “I’ve been here eight years, and we’ve done scads of events,” but she has never seen a response like this one Keteltas said.
"You have no idea the amount of mail and calls we received," she said.
Three years ago Keteltas approached members of Spellman’s religious studies department with an opportunity for a grant from the Archdiocese’s Office for Black Catholics. Since Spellman has a diverse population with many black and Hispanic students, Keteltas felt the school was a good candidate for the grant, which was intended to celebrate diversity and encourage multicultural students to become involved at their schools. The religious studies department came up with the idea for the garden and multicultural Stations of the Cross.
After receiving the grant, more funding was needed to complete the project. Parents and alumni were invited to sponsor the garden by donating a tree, bench or station in memory of a loved one.
The letters were sent on a Friday and by the following Tuesday all the places were filled. Emily Dillis, a graduate, called from Wisconsin on the Tuesday when only one bench was left, and someone else was interested in taking it. Dillis insisted that she had to have it because she and her 15 brothers and sisters, all Spellman alumni, wanted to donate the bench for their parents, Bob and Emily Dillis.
Even with the help from sponsors, the budget for the project was low, making it difficult to find an artist. After much searching, Jack Hurley, a 1968 graduate and owner of Custom Stained Glass, was chosen to design and create the stations.
Many alumni, including Hurley, attended the dedication ceremony in June. The school was opened in 1958, and alumni from each of the last four decades attended. Keteltas has more plans for improving the garden, and Sister Thomasine hopes to start a horticulture club. Next Easter they hope to have activities outside for the first time, in their new garden.