The first seed in Mary’s Garden was planted in 2011.
The idea bloomed and was nurtured by the National Shrine Council [NSC] with Ferdie Alagao as “head gardener”. He cajoled a young architect into designing the landscape for it – gratis. Walkways and plants were so designed as to evoke a sense of serenity in the visiting soul. One entered into the garden by the side of the Adoration Chapel.
The focal point in the design was an image of our Blessed Mother seated as she first appeared to Saint Catherine Laboure in 1830, Paris, France. The image was likewise a devotee’s donation.
But instead of the saint kneeling before her, there is now an empty kneeler that visitors ease themselves into to fold their hands on our Mother’s lap, head touched by the Virgin’s hand in a gesture of blessing. Silence and meditation are the means of communication between mother and daughter, between mother and son.
The whole place blossomed through the efforts of nameless devotees. The brick tiles of the walks are from individual donors, including even the least endowed of parishioners like domestic helpers. For 25 pesos, one got to write his name at the back of the brick.
On the feast of the Queenship of Mary on August 22, 2012, a solemn coronation marked the formal opening of the garden. Congregation of the Mission [CM] Provincial Visitor Fr. Venerando Agner, CM, blessed its every nook and cranny. Main Mass celebrant was a special guest: Bishop Rolando Santos, CM, of Alotau-Sideia, Papua New Guinea.
Before he assumed his post in Papua New Guinea, Bishop Rolly was the predecessor of Fr. Agner as Provincial Visitor of the CM Philippine Province. And way before that, the bishop, then a simple Vincentian priest, was a long-time resident in our Shrine Parish as spiritual director of the Daughters of Charity [DC] in their nearby provincial house.
The bishop recalled that the window of his room at the Shrine Parish rectory used to look out into a junkyard where now Mary’s Garden rose almost magically. It is now a room with a view and an invitation to raise up to God and our Blessed Mother a greeting of praise and thanksgiving.
Every year on the 22nd of August, a rosary procession and anniversary Mass are celebrated at the garden. Devotees walk on the brick tiles that represent the hearts of Mary’s children.
For photos of the the First Anniversary celebration of Mary's Garden on August 22, 2013, click here and visit our Facebook page.
Also, to easily locate Mary's Garden, see No. 11 in the OLMMNSP Aerial Directory.