The project is “a great blend of ecology and faith, being good stewards of God’s creation,” said Elterine “Dusty” Jankowski-Biggers, pastoral musician and a member of the Green Team.

The church, whose construction began in the mid-1950s and completed in the early 1960s, is not suited to having air-conditioning because it has a hot-water heating system, according to Green Team member Jim Jensen.

“Our daughter was married here on June 27, 2009, and it was absolutely unbearable,” said Jensen. “This will make a big difference.”

A foreman and a crew of four from Johnson’s Nursery Inc., of Menomonee Falls installed the trees in a matter of a couple hours, to the delight of the onlookers.

“One day there was nothing here, and tomorrow there is,” said Jankowski-Biggers.

The Green Team visited the nursery last spring to choose the type of trees to be planted: autumn blaze maple, skyline honey locust, and tamarack. The locust was selected to compliment an existing locust at the site.

All three varieties will provide color throughout the spring, summer and fall.

The autumn blaze maple features a small red flower for a couple weeks in the spring before leafing out. In the fall, it becomes a brilliant red. The skyline honey locust displays dark green foliage that turns golden yellow in the fall. The tamarack, which has feathery needles rather than broad leaves, starts out as yellow-green in the spring, and becomes gold and red in the fall.

But the Green Team had more than a color palette in mind when it decided on three types of trees. The group wanted the plantings – three trees each of three different varieties  – to be symbolic of the trinity.

“We came up with the idea of nine because we needed a substantial number to shade the building,” said Jankowski-Biggers. “It was an inspiration. If we want this to be a meditation garden, that’s something we can use in the future to help people meditate.”

Indeed, there’s talk of adding a labyrinth with benches. Other possibilities are a rain garden (fed by roof runoff) to help soak up water during downpours, and plots for community gardeners to grow herbs and vegetables.

“If we have a rain garden, there’s less lawn to mow,” pointed out Dianne Dagelen.

The parish Green Team was formed about five years ago and has 13 members, headed by Christine Jensen. To win approval from the St. Therese parish council, finance committee and maintenance staff,  “there was a lot of educating that had to be done,” said Jankowski-Biggers.

“We think once this is in and parishioners see the potential, they’ll be even more interested,” said Jim Jensen.

The nursery donated one tree, and the Green Team raised the $4,500 needed to cover the remainder of the project.
Engraved stones will commemorate those in whose memory trees were purchased. A dedication ceremony is likely to be held next spring.

For nearly 30 years, St. Therese set up its parish festival on the land just west of the church building, but it has been largely unused since the festival was discontinued two years ago.
With the Zoo Interchange reconstruction project on the horizon, St. Therese likely will lose some of its vacant land bordering Hwy. 45. Already, the parish has been told that the widening of Blue Mound Road will slice 25 feet off the front of the property. Green Teamers hope that the additional trees will reduce some of the noise and dust associated with road construction and increased vehicular traffic.
They’re also excited at the thought of butterflies and other wildlife taking up residence on the church grounds. On the day of the tree planting, a red-tailed hawk was perched on the peak of the church’s roof.

The maple and locust trees were about 15 to 20 feet tall at the time of planting and are expected to grow at least two feet per year, topping out at about 50 feet in height. The tamaracks, meanwhile, started out smaller and will be about 25 feet tall at maturity.

“In a hundred years, when they’re still here and we’re not, that size will be here,” said Tyson Mueller, lead designer of the project for Johnson’s Nursery. “This is a legacy planting. Planting trees allows us to give a gift that lasts much longer than we’re able to enjoy it.”