DECATUR — In a quiet space between St. Patrick Catholic Church and the school is an oasis of peace.
A shrine with a cross depicting the crucified Jesus is surrounded by red roses. Roses symbolize the Virgin Mary, and red ones remind the faithful of the blood of the martyrs. With two benches situated for prayer and meditation, a birdbath, and a stone walk in the shape of an angel's wings, the St. Patrick prayer garden is a place where parishioners and students will be able to seek God.
The garden, the Eagle Scout project of 14-year-old Dylan Thunder, was dedicated on Tuesday by the Rev. John Burnette, pastor of St. Patrick, who retired Tuesday. He was assisted by the Rev. Chris Comerford, who will succeed him as pastor.
“Our different blessings come from a long history,” Burnette said. “They've been prayed through the ages, and I don't have to make up stuff. It covers the values of our faith and the value of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus.”
Burnette used the Order for the Blessing of a New Cross for Public Veneration from the Catholic Book of Worship.
Before Dylan's project, the area was full of weeds, with a tree and a flowering bush and a birdbath. Thanks to Dylan, it's neat and orderly, and in spite of the traffic on Eldorado Street nearby, serene with the quiet punctuated by birdsong.
“This is wonderful, and I get to benefit from it,” Comerford quipped.
Dylan is one of the youngest Eagle Scouts, said Tim Lee, assistant scoutmaster and chaplain for Troop 43 in Mount Zion. Dylan's Board of Review was scheduled for Tuesday and he officially received the Eagle designation at the conclusion of that, with a ceremony to be scheduled later.
Boy Scouts who wish to pursue the Eagle rank must complete the requirements by their 18th birthday, which include six months as a Life Scout, leadership activities and earning a minimum of 21 merit badges. Doing all that requires good time management skills, and the Eagle's project requires fundraising and assistance from others. Dylan is a member of St. Patrick, and spent a lot of time and effort raising money for the project, enough that he was also able to include a new concrete sidewalk in addition to all the rest.
“Today we are here to celebrate the inspiration and achievements of a young man who can lead us to peace,” Lee said during the dedication. “Working to realize his vision, Dylan Thunder helped inspire our congregation to support his endeavor. Father John Burnette directed the vision, so that persons may find a retreat to go to God in prayer.”
The entire project took over a year, Dylan said, and it looks almost exactly as he pictured it when he planned it.
"Originally, before we did the project, my parents and I were scrolling through websites for ideas about a project, and I saw some gardens," Dylan said. "I thought about it and thought it would be nice to have a little garden where people could sit down and pray at the church, and I talked to Father John and he said he had the perfect place and showed me this (area)."
"To me it's kind of remarkable for a 13-year-old to undertake a project of this scope and envision it and be able to see it through," Lee said. "To plan it, and manage it, and talk to people at this church and businesses. He was very diligent."
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Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter
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