Peace garden at St. Andrew Elementary School in Orangeville, Ont., after Tove Schmidt and a team of volunteers brought it back to life. Photos courtesy of Tove Schmidt

Rosary-inspired idea revitalizes garden

  • October 25, 2018

One woman’s labour of love has seen an overgrown peace garden at a Catholic school in Orangeville, Ont., brought back to life as a Rosary Garden.

Tove Schmidt took on the project to revitalize the garden at St. Andrew Elementary School in this town northwest of Toronto and dedicate it to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

It was a chance encounter with the garden that led to the transformation. Schmidt was on her way to St. Andrew’s to see school officials about starting a rosary club at the school, joining programs at the other two Catholic elementary schools in the town that she was instrumental in bringing to life. The garden looked like it “might have at some point in time been a nice garden, but it was hard to tell,” she said.

Gradually, Schmidt’s vision of a restored garden took shape — “something dedicated to Our Lady.” She began work on the transformation over the summer, finishing up around the time students were back in school in September.

“Now that it’s there and it’s beautiful again, and it’s a garden dedicated to Our Lady,” Schmidt is spreading the word that it is open for prayer and contemplation.

“I take walks there, I call them mini-pilgrimages,” she said, praying the rosary during both ends of the trip, often accompanied by her dog. 

“I’m hoping other people will use it in a similar way.”

Officials with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board say they are pleased with what has become of the garden.

rosary garden beforeAt left is the overgrown peace garden that had been on St. Andrew Elementary School in Orangeville, Ont., before Tove Schmidt and a team of volunteers brought it back to life. (Photos courtesy of Tove Schmidt)

“We’re very appreciative that one of our community members took the time and energy to create a Marian garden at St. Andrew’s over the summer,” said Bruce Campbell, general manager of communications and community relations with the board. “This provides our school with a beautiful outdoor sacred environment for students and staff.”

Schmidt took on much of the labour herself, but also had help from family members and other volunteers. She got pointers on how best to go about refurbishing the garden, and donated a statue of Mary that had been in her backyard. With help from her uncle Gord Krentz, who travelled two hours from his home east of Toronto, “Mary’s House” was erected as the new home for the statue. Donated stones helped complete the project, and Schmidt’s mother helped paint them. 

The stones have been arranged like a five-decade rosary with its five groups of 10 beads, with additional beads before each decade. The new garden needed 59 stones in total.

All told, Schmidt invested about $800 in the project.

“I don’t mind spending my money on things that are going to help people’s spiritual lives,” she said.

Schmidt said she can’t put a finger on how she developed a special devotion to Mary and the rosary, but has felt more inclined to pray it daily.

“It’s not something that was always important to me. But over the years, I can’t explain why, more and more it’s become of great importance,” she said.

“St. Padre Pio said the rosary is a weapon for our times. We live in such difficult times it feels like it’s almost necessary now.”

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