By YONE DALY, Special to the Bulletin | Published November 27, 2017
JONESBORO—With completion of a new memorial garden at St. Philip Benizi Church in Jonesboro, a Mass of dedication and blessing of the garden was held Aug. 23, the feast of the parish’s patron saint.
Father John Koziol, OFM Conv., pastor, was the celebrant with Father Gabriel Scasino, OFM Conv., concelebrating. Deacon John Halloran assisted.
From its beginnings, St. Philip Benizi Church has been abundantly blessed by God. On Sept. 12, 1965, 35 families gathered in a drugstore in downtown Jonesboro where Father Daniel J. O’Connor celebrated the first Mass of the mission church.
In his homily at the garden dedication, Father Koziol recounted facts about the life of St. Philip Benizi and noted this year marks anniversaries of two significant moments in the community’s history—the completion of the first church in April 1967 and the elevation of the mission to a parish in June 1967.
“Today, I am privileged to formally dedicate the St. Philip Benizi Memorial Garden to our parishioners who founded, established, built and sustained its growth over these last 52 years,” said Father Koziol.
The pastor expressed hope that the garden would be a permanent sign of gratitude and pride as well as a reminder of the presence of God in the beauty of creation.
“May the stones with which it has been built remind us of Jesus Christ who is our sure foundation,” said the priest. “May it also remind us of all those who came before us and built this parish. May it challenge us to continue to build up the Church here in Clayton County.”
Father Koziol asked that St. Philip Benizi be the guide in serving the poor and forgotten and encourage all to be “evangelizers of the Good News.”
On Sept. 12, 2015, St. Philip Benizi Parish celebrated its golden jubilee, a 50th anniversary celebration that marked a milestone in the history of the parish, and gave glory and praise to God for blessings received. As part of the yearlong jubilee, many activities and projects were planned, including a memorial garden adjacent to the church, where outdoor Masses could be celebrated and memorial bricks would be laid.
With an architect’s drawing in hand and a brick campaign underway, work soon began to clear the space, lay sod and create an area for the outdoor sanctuary. With the talents, vision and labor of staff members and volunteers, the garden began to take shape.
To help fund the garden’s construction, parishioners past and present were invited to purchase memorial bricks, honoring loved ones, in dedication to a specific ministry, quoting Scripture or giving thanks. The inscriptions are diverse, but the sentiments all come from hearts full of gratitude.
Many people gave selfless gifts of time, talent and treasure to the memorial garden project including the parish pastoral councils led by Bob Oertel and Rosemary St. Jacques, and garden committee members Lyndy Broder and Carlos Mendizabal. Broder, a master gardener, selected plants, and measured and designed the planted beds around the sanctuary. Other garden committee members included John Bush, Sandy Clair, Helena Frazier, JoAnn Mitchell-Stringer, Pam O’Connor, Rosemary St. Jacques and Janina Watson.
A brick committee including members Rosemary St. Jacques and John Love coordinated the memorials.
The Knights of Columbus and parishioners assisted in the laying of sod and planting. Carlos Diaz and his firm constructed walls and worked in bricklaying. Donors provided the altar, pulpit, presider’s chair, and altar servers’ bench for the outdoor worship space.
John Parker was creator, designer and builder of the liturgical elements including the resurrection cross. Parker discovered a two-ton rock on the parish grounds to serve as the base of the cross. His son Michael Williams assisted with installation of sanctuary furnishings and the cross.