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Marian Grotto Prayer Garden dedicated with Historical Marker

A large crowd was on hand Palm Sunday, April 10, at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church grounds to celebrate the dedication of the Marian Grotto Prayer Garden Historical Marker unveiling and dedication. Members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul will provide the ongoing labor to maintain the site.

arian Grotto Prayer Garden’s new historical marker on Palm Sunday. Emcee Jerry Levens made a statement of thanks and appreciation to parishioners Henry Schepens, Sr., Mary Fayard and Helen Ann Fayard, representing their father, A.C. Fayard, for their contributions made in 1972 and 1973. Thanks was also expressed to Mary Schepens Levens, who sponsored the historical marker, and the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which led the refurbishment project under the direction of their project coordinator, Paula Spears, and president, Mike Barry. The historical marker provides information for visitors and future generations of St. Thomas Parish.

The rededication ceremony included more than one hundred parishioners and guests.

Fr. Vincent led with the opening prayer, followed by Deacon Buddy Van Court reading the gospel of the Angel Gabriel calling on Mary. Father Cuddy O’Connell performed the blessing of the Marian Grotto and Prayer Garden.

Parishioner Henry Schepens, Sr. donated the grotto to St. Thomas in 1972. The donation was in memory of his parents, Leo and Theresa Dauro Schepens, and the Vincent and Angelina Trippe Dauro family. The original site for the grotto was south of Bear Bayou and west of the church. The statue of the Blessed Mother in the grotto was donated to St. Thomas the Apostle in 1972 by A.C. Fayard. The following year, Helen Fayard rededicated the Statue of Our Lady in memory of her husband, A.C. Fayard, and their daughter, Helen Ann. David Fayard donated the landscaping. Two additional monuments in the prayer garden are the cherub fountain, provided by St. Thomas parishioners and Fr. Louis Lohan, and a statue of an angel holding a baby, known as “The Essence of Love,” which was donated by Steve and Kathy Day.

In recent years, the prayer garden has been visited more frequently by parishioners and organizations to peacefully pray. A St. Vincent de Paul Society member mentioned the grotto and prayer garden needed improvements at a Society meeting. Spears said they met with Pastor O’Connell to request permission and discuss ideas on refurbishing the prayer garden.

Members started cleaning the garden and planting flowers in October 2021. Parishioners Frances Carrubba LeBlanc and Carmela Vizzini Frost donated their time and artistic talent painting the Statue of Mary after Blane Moody made repairs. Leblanc also designed and created the crown of flowers placed on the statue. Spears said no funds given to the Society for the underprivileged were used for the project.

The prayer garden is visited often by parishioners and guests for many reasons other than prayer. Children attending St. Thomas School of Religious Education use the grotto for May Crowning. Parishioners and guests often take pictures on special occasions in the prayer garden for First Eucharist, Confirmation, Mother’s Day, weddings, high school prom, and graduation. Spears stated the Society of St. Vincent de Paul believes “it is not only important to nourish our bodies, but also our souls. For this reason, we adopted the grotto and the area around it, providing a community service of beautification and preservation for this peaceful, sacred site.”

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