With some help from fellow parishioners, Joy Laplander, shown with Fr. Andrew Kysely at an August ribbon cutting, created a rosary garden at St. Joseph Parish in Big Bend. (Photo courtesy of Kathryn Campbell)

For many kids, coming up with a gift from their graduating class is often a rite of passage. When Joy Laplander, then a student at St. Joseph Parish School, Big Bend, was thinking about what her eighth-grade class’ gift should be, it sparked an idea that eventually helped her earn the Silver Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn in middle school, of which she had been involved with since kindergarten.

“The idea of a rosary garden came about when I was praying the rosary with my classmates in religion class,” Joy said. “I told my friend about my idea, and she researched and found some pictures on Pinterest of ones that had been created by others.” With ideas and plans running through her head, Joy decided to take a leap of faith and see if a rosary garden could be designed for St. Joseph Parish.

Multiple Families Help in the Process

Knowing that there was more to the process than digging some dirt and planting a few flowers, Joy began by creating a proposal for the rosary garden, which she submitted to the parish for approval. It was there that she discovered that another family had also inquired about the possibility of creating a special garden, and they decided to join forces.

“We contacted the Campbell Family, combined our ideas and submitted a revised proposal to the church,” she said. The parish gave the two families a green light to begin this unique project.

“The Campbell Family had already budgeted the funds to put the rosary garden in, as well as purchased the majority of the materials needed to create it,” Joy said. “Kathryn and John Campbell helped me with the layout, supplies and construction of the rosary garden. John also created all of the stepping stones, and their daughters helped a lot, too.” Kathryn Campbell, who works as the administrative assistant at St. Joseph School, would sometimes even work on the garden after she had finished in the office.

Joy and her family purchased $300 of perennials for the garden, which she helped fund using money she had raised throughout her years as a Girl Scout. As fall comes around, they will also plant some bulbs when the weather is right, which they have budgeted for.

A (Parish) Family Affair

Although the garden happened because of an idea Joy had one day while praying, in the end it was actually a huge (parish) family affair.

“So many people stepped up to help us complete this project. My brothers helped me clean the paving stones one evening. My dad helped with moving paving stones and mulch. My mom helped with things all throughout the process, too, from the layout, to constructing, to moving mulch, to planting perennials,” Joy said. “There were a few others who helped with one small thing or another. Mr. Van Rixel (principal at St. Joseph’s) even helped with setting up the benches and getting the Mary statue moved from her spot by the parish offices, to her new spot in the garden.” Bob Pfiel, another St. Joseph parishioner, helped remove the old garden landscape and leveled the area.

Pat Kolinski, a St. Joseph parishioner for the past 55 years, is thrilled at the creation of the rosary garden. Joyfully involved with Marian devotion at the parish, she helped supply rosaries and prayer cards for the opening ceremony in August.

“The rosary is very special, and at this time right now, we really need it,” Kolinski said. “It’s especially wonderful that the garden is located right by the school, where the little children can come by whenever they want. We will be using the garden this year and beyond to say the rosary whenever we can.”

She’s Only Getting Started

Although the project was a big undertaking, Joy insists she’s only getting started. Now a freshman at Catholic Central High School in Burlington, she already has some plans in the works.

“I plan on a phase two to the rosary garden, where I will add the Hail Mary prayer to the benches, and create a house to hold prayer cards, rosaries, and directions on how to pray the rosary — all of which I’ll help lead with assistance from the Girls Scouts at St. Joseph’s,” Joy said.

This summer, she spent much of her time volunteering for Girl Scout day camp, which she absolutely loved. She plans to continue her involvement in Girl Scouts throughout high school, and eventually earn her Gold Award, which tackles issues that are important to the individual Girl Scout and drives lasting change in their communities and beyond.

When asked about her feelings about the rosary garden, Joy is content with how it ended up and its plans for the future.

“I really enjoyed this project,” she said. “My hope is that others will enjoy it, too.”

Interested in seeing this “labor of love?” All are welcome to stop by the parish and check out this beautiful tribute to Mother Mary. Come and pray at the rosary garden at St. Joseph Parish, S89 W22650 Milwaukee Ave., Big Bend.