Engineering and faith might seem like an unlikely mix at first glance, but both were on Allison Hofer’s mind last summer when she set out to create a labyrinth garden outside St. Thomas More High School.
Hofer, a senior at Saint Thomas More, received help from eight students in July when she installed the garden outside the school’s winding entrance off of St. Francis Avenue. While the collaborative effort took less than three weeks to create, Hofer herself began planning other facets of the project earlier in 2009.
The other St. Thomas More students who assisted Hofer in creating the garden were Fraser Ferentz, Frank Gerschke, Allen Halas, Connor Jonas, Joe Seeby, Lara Seeby, Mike Wasilik and Teresa Wroblewski.
The finished product is 70 feet in diameter and includes numerous foot-wide paths. A variety of flowers – “almost every perennial imaginable,” as Hofer puts it – are accompanied by mulch and benches.
Hofer said her involvement in the project took about 100 hours. As the person spearheading the effort, she took on responsibilities such as creating a budget, deciding what supplies were needed, enlisting donations from families and companies – who fully funded the project – and designing the entire garden.
Hofer, who aspires to go into engineering, said creating the winding, circular-shaped labyrinth garden was an opportunity to get a taste of what she hopes to eventually do professionally.
“I knew (creating the garden) was the perfect engineering marvel that also has a
Parish: Attends Mass at Holy Hill, Hubertus
Occupation: Student at St. Thomas More High School, Milwaukee, competitive dancer and server at Panera Bread
Book recently read: “Dear John,” by Nicholas Sparks
Favorite movie: “Phantom of the Opera”
Favorite quotation: “Hope is the ability to hear the music of the future, but faith is having the courage to dance it today.”
(Photo by O’Brien Photography, submitted courtesy Allison Hofer)
very strong spiritual connection,” Hofer said. “This spiritual meaning behind the garden’s intricate pattern is what made me know it was perfect for the St. Thomas More campus.”
While engineering was one motivator for Hofer, another aspect that drew her into the project was her faith.
“This can be a place for anyone to think and meditate about the problems they might face, or to contemplate anything else that’s on their mind,” Hofer said. “I’m a big thinker, so I like to reflect in places like this. I think it will benefit all sorts of people, including my classmates.”
Labyrinths, derived from Greek culture, resemble mazes and have single, non-branching paths that eventually lead to a central point. Within the context of gardens, labyrinths have long been used as sources of meditation and areas to sit in for peaceful reflection.
St. Thomas More officials have indicated that the garden will supplement the school’s campus ministry program and help students explore their spiritual sides, particularly during retreats.
Last June, before embarking on the garden project, Hofer took a pilgrimage to Assisi.
“I grew up in a Catholic family, but this made it all come together for me,” Hofer said. “It was a peaceful, eye-opening experience. I really connected with my faith on that trip.”
Another catalyst for Hofer to create the garden was to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award, the equivalent of an Eagle Scout Award for a Boy Scout. In a tradition similar to that of their male counterparts, Girl Scouts earning this award have to initiate some type of service-related project.
“When I began thinking about what I could do (to earn the Gold Award), I was interested in creating the garden because it was something I would be interested in working on,” Hofer said. “I thought about how this would be a good place to do it.”
With graduation just a few months ahead, Hofer is setting her sights on a new chapter of her life. She will study at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in the fall with goals of eventually earning degrees in engineering, and possibly patent law.