For two years, the Rev. Rita Milne prayed for God’s guidance in transforming the empty lot behind St. Patrick’s church in Whitecourt. Then, one night, she dreamed of a beautiful labyrinth. At St. Patrick’s AGM in 2017, her vision for a community prayer labyrinth received unanimous support, and the parish pledged its REACH funds to help bring the project to fruition.
“They said, ‘this is awesome – let’s do it!’” says Milne.
A circular foot path leading to a center space, a labyrinth represents the physical, emotional and spiritual journey we all make through life. When finished in a few weeks, this sacred space will bring peace to those who walk it while reflecting on their own journey.
St. Patrick’s tiny congregation (just 14 members) believed whole-heartedly that God was calling them to beautify their downtown property and, at the same time, reach out to community members seeking a quiet and meditative space to take pause from their hectic lives. To their great joy and surprise, they submitted and received approval from the Town of Whitecourt for a community beautification grant.
The labyrinth design was selected with the help of Deb Stevens, a Labyrinth Facilitator and Spiritual Director from St. Mary’s, Ponoka. She shared several options with the parish and they chose an uncomplicated path to lead walkers to an oasis of quiet beauty.
Though he had never worked on a labyrinth before, the owner of Concrete Creations was intrigued by the project and decided to donate his labour, saving the parish thousands of dollars. In May, Milne and parishioner Holly Heaven used pencils to stake out an outline of the proposed plan in the still frozen ground. Eventually, the ground was prepared for a 33-foot slab of concrete. A new sidewalk was also poured for wheelchair accessibility. Later this week a 32-foot-diameter labyrinth will be stamped and stained into the concrete, and a parishioner’s Celtic cross will be used as the mold for the center piece.
To enhance the aesthetics and deter deer and vandals, Burning Bush and Juniper shrubs are being planted along the alley. Final touches will be the addition of two metal benches and signs, designed by another member of the parish, inviting visitors to sit or walk the labyrinth, clear their mind, regenerate their soul or to simply rest, dream and contemplate life.
The parish will celebrate the opening of their labyrinth on August 19 with Bishop Jane Alexander, who will also lead a Service of Confirmation at St. Patrick’s. Watch the Synod Scene for pictures of the completed labyrinth, and be sure to stop by for a visit the next time you are in Whitecourt!