By DONNELL SUGGS, Special to the Bulletin | Published March 8, 2019
LILBURN—The Stations of the Cross, 14 images of Christ’s journey on the day of his crucifixion commonly etched in ivory or wood, have existed in the form known today for nearly 600 years and are most often seen in sanctuaries the world over.
Along with improvements to the church grounds, an outdoor Stations of the Cross project was recently completed at St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn, through a combined effort from Boy Scouts Troop 522, the Knights of Columbus Council 7923 and members of the community, including area high school students.
Under the direction of the church’s Creation Care Team, what was described in a press release as a “wooded area of invasive plants” is now what Team Director Susan Varlamoff calls “a reminder of the passion and death of Christ, which actually took place in nature.”
Varlamoff, author of “Sustainable Gardening for the Southeast,” along with former colleagues at the University of Georgia, wrote an action plan inspired by Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ (On Care for our Common Home). The action plan has a goal of “encouraging the respect and protection of nature,” said Varlamoff, and included making the most of natural spaces such as the grounds of St. John Neumann Church.
She noted, “We are also trying to make people aware of our dependence on natural resources while reducing waste.”
Along with the stations, the grounds now include a grotto, a fire pit, an amphitheater, a footbridge, benches and a newly paved path to both the baseball field and grotto. The work necessary for the amount of improvement took dedication and many different skill sets.
According to Troop 522 Charter Organization Representative Todd Eaton, a member of the pastoral council at St. John Neumann Church and of Knights of Columbus Council 7923, the 13 scouts who assisted in the projects were looking forward to making their marks on their community.
“The Scouts were really motivated. We had a good group,” said Eaton of the Scouts. The Scouts participating were David Carter, Dominic Dellapina, Brian Rainwater, Matthew Dittrich, Danny Eaton, Nicholas Rust, Chandler Coody, Sean Lee, Evan Wilson, Dan Grosch, Michael Young, Josh Varuso and Ryan Martin.
Eaton also made mention of the masonry, wood work, path clearing, path paving and installations that the troop made possible.
“The goal was to help beautify the area,” he said.
The volunteers began working on the first stages of the outdoor improvements in 2014, with the last elements—the benches—being added in 2018.
Troop 522 Scoutmaster Jeff Christopher was also on hand for the beautification projects. “It was an extraordinary effort,” said Christopher of the task. “For teenagers to do that amount of work was phenomenal. We saw teenagers ranging from ages 15 to 18 putting the work in and that was amazing. These guys did an awful lot of work on things that professionals would be required to do.”
According to another St. John Neumann parishioner the mission was accomplished. “I think it’s incredible and I hope that it is utilized by everyone in the community,” said Mary Ziegler-Martin, the mother of a Troop 522 Scout.
“You can hear the creek,” she added. “It’s a place to have some quiet time.”
This will be the first Lenten season with all the elements in place for parishioners and the community to use in the outdoor worship space.
In a press release St. John Neumann Facilities Manager Mike Hayward praised the effects of the new and improved grounds.
“Our Lord’s preferred places for prayer to his Father were also outdoors, especially the Garden of Gethsemane,” he said. “That’s why I am sure anyone who uses the spaces will feel a deeper sense of closeness to him.”
St. John Neumann Church is located at 801 Tom Smith Road, Lilburn. The stations are located at the far, left corner of the rear of the church property and can be accessed via the lower parking lot.