Sacred Heart parishioners build their own prayer garden

ABBEVILLE — A new prayer garden at Sacred Heart Church offers the whole community a quiet place to pray and reflect.
The garden was officially dedicated by Father Allam Marreddy, parish administrator, on May 11. It is the result of more than a year of planning, giving and hard work by members of the church.
Sacred Heart was founded in 1885 and has a current membership of 67 households. It is the fourth oldest church in the historic upstate town of Abbeville, according to an official parish history.
The idea for the prayer garden germinated in spring 2007 shortly after renovations of the church grounds were completed.
Marilyn Buffaloe, a member of Sacred Heart since 2005, had travelled to Slidell, La., to help an aunt after Hurricane Katrina. She said a church she visited there had a rosary garden, where people gathered to pray near a statue of Mary.
Buffaloe mentioned the garden to other people and they thought it would be a nice thing to do at Sacred Heart.
“After that it just kind of steamrolled,” she said. “We got permission from Father Marreddy, and after that it was amazing how everything just fell into place. We thought that was what happens when you do something that the Blessed Mother would like.”
Buffaloe served on the garden planning committee along with Theresa Tessier, Pete Smith, Ray Rossi and Dee Mountford, the parish secretary.
Mountford said funding for the garden came through private contributions from people who wanted to donate in honor of friends and relatives.
James Cothran, who is a landscape architect from Atlanta and the brother of parishioner Mary White, designed the garden and donated his time to the project. A church member who wanted to remain anonymous donated a statue of Our Lady of Grace in honor of a deceased spouse.
The garden includes roses, camellias, laurels, azaleas, nandinas and cleara japonicas. During the summer, volunteers added petunias, begonias and marigolds. A row of holly bushes were planted behind the statue to provide a natural protective screen, and Buffaloe said a grotto may eventually be built to protect it.
Two benches and a bluebird house complete the garden.
“All the money that was spent on this was donated. We all chipped in,” said Rossi, who worked as a contractor in the Northeast before moving to South Carolina. “Everybody who had time helped. It was a real community effort. We never had any real serious disagreements with each other, and it was just a wonderful experience.”
Buffaloe said members of nearby Presbyterian and Episcopal churches have come to the garden for prayer.
Since the garden’s dedication, members of Sacred Heart have used it both for individual and group prayer. Buffaloe said people are signing up to say the rosary each day in the garden during the month of October.
“It’s done wonders for our little congregation, and it’s helped to bring other people to the church to say a prayer, and maybe wonder a little more about what we do as Catholics,” Buffaloe said. “It’s a great feeling to be able to sit and meditate in quiet, and remove yourself from the traffic and what’s going on around you.”

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