Eagle Scout's efforts leads to walkable rosary garden in Franklin Park

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

At SS. John & Paul Catholic Church in Franklin Park, each step can be a prayer.

Through the efforts of Eagle Scout Thomas Osheka, 16, of Marshall Township, a rosary garden has been installed on the church property. Every bead of this walkable rosary is represented by a circular concrete stone or an engraved granite square set near church's main drive. In 59 steps, prayer and meditation can be a kind of physical exercise.

“You're walking it, saying it and thinking it,” said Osheka, a son of Susan and Jerry Osheka. “All your senses are involved, and you can feel the wind through the trees.”

The rosary garden was dedicated Aug. 15, the holy day for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, after the church's Mass. The Osheka family was part of the gathering.

The Rev. Joseph R. McCaffrey, pastor of the church, said he appreciated Osheka's idea when he heard about it in June 2012.

One of the requirements that must be met to become an Eagle Scout, the highest Boy Scout rank, is completion of a community-service project.

“It was a great idea,” he said. “We have beautiful grounds, and this will make them more inviting by (welcoming) people to pray.”

And the collaboration began. Osheka, a junior at North Allegheny, clocked 152 hours of work on the project, and fellow Scouts, his parents and brother, volunteers from the Legion of Mary and specialists at Donatelli Memorials in Ross Township provided another 321.

“We wanted something easy to maintain and comfortable to use,” the pastor said.

This rosary reinforced old connections when the new parish was decreed on Feb. 12, 1994. Ultimately, the parish was named not only for St. John and St. Paul but also in honor of the late Pope John Paul II, McCaffrey explained.

The pope, now being considered for sainthood, had such a deep devotion to Mary that he marked religious year 2002-03 as the Year of the Rosary and created the Luminous Mysteries that guide the prayers from one set of beads on the rosary to the next.

In the rosary garden, the pope's coat of arms is engraved in black granite. The cross is made up of six squares of white granite, and a statue of the Holy Family donated by a parish family connects the chain.

The original budget was $600, Osheka said, but one day of fundraising at the church produced $2,012 for the project.

“The parishioners are fantastic,” he said.

Extra funds allowed him to build a box for the informational pamphlets he had printed and to buy lots of mulch to place the stones of the cross on a slight incline. Once all of his bills were paid, he was able to return $264 to the parish.

When the rosary was in place in late December, Osheka, focused and sure-footed, prayed through the steps.

“Once you walk around the garden, you have a sense of accomplishment and connection with God,” he said. “You end up next to the statue, and it's powerful.”

While it took a lot of planning, Osheka said, he learned a few lessons, especially those involving communications and networking. He'll leave the task of additional landscaping to others, but the winding path will remain a journey for devout souls.

“With a little thought and a little prayer, it came together nicely,” McCaffrey said.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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