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Garden of prayer

Petunias, lavender crepe myrtle, double-blooming cherries, and red maples help set the vibrant tone for the lavish surroundings of a unique Rosary Garden just established at one of Merced's Catholic churches.

Dennis Riskey of Merced, a contractor, retired teacher-administrator and chairman of the drive to build the Rosary Garden at St. Patrick's Catholic Church on Yosemite Avenue, doesn't know of a similar project anywhere in the United States. 

It was finished in April and should be its most spectacular next April when spring ushers in new blossoms on the emerging vegetation in the complex next to the church sanctuary.

“It's a place for prayer. Everybody's welcome,” said Riskey. “There are spots here for anybody and everybody. It's very rewarding (to see it done) but it took a number of dedicated volunteers to make it happen."

The Rosary Garden encompasses an area of 5,500 square feet. The Rosary path is five feet wide and 180 feet in circumference with stamped and colored concrete. Man-made terrazzo beads are imbedded in the surface along the path.

There is a cross that's six feet wide and 10 feet long. It includes 126 engraved red bricks. Constructed with brick veneer and granite, the five mystery markers are identified with Roman numerals.

LED light fixtures are on from dusk until 11 p.m. daily, as well as a spotlight on the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, the patron saint of the Portuguese. This statue is five feet tall and made of solid marble imported from Italy.

A subsurface drip irrigation system has been installed to conserve water. At the water supply line is a fertilizer supply tank to keep the plants nourished.

The four mysteries of the Rosary are joyful, sorrowful, glorious and luminous. The colors of white, red, yellow and lavender are associated with these mysteries.

An inscription below the statue of Our Lady of Fatima says "Pray the rosary every day to obtain peace for the world and those in most need of God's mercy. Holy Virgin protect us."

The prayer inscription band statue was dedicated by the Lorenzi family.

There are six concrete benches positioned along the Rosary path. Riskey says the red maple trees in the entry will turn bright red in the fall. Gingko trees also will turn bright yellow then, complemented by multi-colored petunias, the lavender crepe myrtles, and Rose of Sharon blossoms. 

A trellis behind the Our Lady of Fatima statue holds the jasmine plants and their purplish blossoms. Fourteen miniature Bottle Brush shrubs will add their varied shades of red to the display. 

Riskey said St. Patrick's parishioners are very thankful and appreciative to have the Rosary Garden. More than $80,000 was raised by the congregation to fund the garden's construction, undertaken by MV Construction of Atwater. 

Noted tree advocate and arborist Jim Williamson of Atwater was instrumental in selecting the trees and plants in the garden. He said the Rosary Garden is the finest thing this town has ever seen.

Riskey became chairman of the drive in December 2017 and said it was a matter of getting the plans together and "chasing down different ideas." The project, however, has been in the works for four years and was championed by parishioner Mary Helen Rodriguez who saw a similar project in Oregon. 

"I basically designed the whole thing and coordinated the project. I guess I saw a need and thought I could fulfill it." Riskey says. He taught special education in Livingston from 1969 to 1977 before going into construction. Riskey also was one of the founders of the Merced County Special Olympics program.

The Rosary Garden is handicap-accessible and open at all hours. Lighting is in place to highlight special features. 

Rosary Garden sponsors include the Lorenzi family,Our Lady of Fatima Society, the Abbate family, Robert and Norma Edar-Cosiac, the Pilkington  family, the Phillips family, the Giacalone family, Garth Pecchenino, Arlene Gach, Tree Partners Foundation, designer Elias Armenta and Pastor John P. Fluetsch.