November 11, 2011

Pro-life memorial offers mourners a place to pray

Ten pine trees form a circle around the new Garden of Comfort and Life at St. Michael the Archangel Parish, 3354 W. 30th St., in Indianapolis. The pro-life memorial also features an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and her words of comfort to St. Juan Diego. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

Ten pine trees form a circle around the new Garden of Comfort and Life at St. Michael the Archangel Parish, 3354 W. 30th St., in Indianapolis. The pro-life memorial also features an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and her words of comfort to St. Juan Diego. (Photo by Mary Ann Garber)

By Mary Ann Garber

Ten pine trees planted in a circle in front of St. Michael the Archangel Church and School in Indianapolis have grown very tall during the years since the parish was founded in 1948.

The fir trees form a shady grotto at 3354 W. 30th St., and their needles carpet the ground around them.

Now, the trees frame a pro-life memorial called the Garden of Comfort and Life where people can come to grieve the loss of babies in abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth as well as mourn other sorrows.

Father Varghese Maliakkal, administrator of the Indianapolis West Deanery parish, said several parishioners had asked him about creating an outdoor pro-life memorial.

“Two years ago, we had a special ceremony in remembrance of the babies that are gone [because of abortion],” he said. “We erected a huge cross, and after the ceremony we did not want to put that cross away. We thought that it was very precious.

“One day, as I was saying my rosary,” Father Maliakkal recalled, “I walked around the church and then God inspired me to go over to the grove of trees. I went there and was surprised to see those trees are planted in a circle. I said, ‘This is the grotto of life.’ Those trees were planted in 1948 when the parish was established. They are 63 years old, and they will stand forever for life.”

It is a fitting place for a memorial, he said, because the pines symbolize the circle of life.

“Life belongs to God and only he can decide to take it to himself,” Father Maliakkal said. “Those trees standing tall in a circle which has no end shows perpetuity and endlessness. Life is forever.”

A large wood cross, adorned with a broken heart painted red and the word “aborted,” was erected in the center of the circle of trees. The cross was made by Chris and Sally Welp, former St. Michael parishioners who moved to Ferdinand, Ind.

Near the cross is a framed image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of life, built by St. Malachy parishioner Michael Geis of Brownsburg at the request of his parents, St. Michael parishioners Robert and Peggy Geis of Indianapolis.

A sign with the Marian image reads, “Mary’s words of trust and love to Juan Diego at Guadalupe: ‘Listen, my son, to what I will tell you now. Do not be troubled by anything. Do not fear illness or any disturbing occurrence or pain. Am I not your Mother? Am I not Life and Health? Have I not placed you in my care and made you my responsibility? Do you need anything else?’ ”

A stone bench in the grotto is engraved with a Scripture passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted” (Mt 5:4).

Seasonal flowers add beauty and color to the shrine, which was blessed by Father Maliakkal on Respect Life Sunday.

“It is dedicated to the pro-life ministry of our parish because every third Saturday of the month we have a special pro-life Mass,” Father Maliakkal said. “We host the [archdiocesan] Helpers of God’s Precious Infants. After Mass, we expose the Blessed Sacrament. All those who are able go to the abortion clinic on West 16th Street to pray the rosary. The others stay in the church for adoration.”

Robert and Peggy Geis helped design the memorial and plant flowers near the cross and Marian image.

“Two years ago, we put up 4,000 crosses in front of the church to represent the number of babies killed in abortions each day in the United States,” Peggy Geis explained. “We found stuffed toys at the foot of some of the crosses. The next year, we put up the large cross with a broken heart [as a pro-life memorial], and we found toys at the foot of this cross.

“Father Varghese said we can’t just take it down,” she recalled. “He came up with the idea to place the cross in the middle of the trees so people have a place to come and pray and seek comfort.

“We hope it will be a place of comfort to all those who come here and are mourning a death or any other tragedy in their lives,” Geis said, “not only women who have had abortions, but also people who have lost sons or daughters or spouses, those who have fallen away from the Church, those who are worried about sickness or family members who are ill, and those who have any kind of problems that they want to take to Jesus and Mary.”

(Father Todd Goodson, pastor of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis, is the celebrant for the next archdiocesan Helpers of God’s Precious Infants Mass at 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 19 at St. Michael the Archangel Church. The Mass is sponsored by the archdiocesan Office for Pro-Life Ministry.)

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