LINCOLN (SNR) - Recently, a set of marble-like stations of the cross were moved from the Lincoln Right to Life prayer garden to the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln. They were blessed and dedicated by rector Msgr. Robert Tucker on Good Friday, April 6.
Originally installed at the motherhouse for the School Sisters of Christ the King, the statues developed unusual wear and tear after only six months. So, the sisters called for a replacement set under a "satisfaction guaranteed" policy.
Meanwhile, local Knight of Columbus Bernie Kouma was searching for a used set of stations for the Lincoln Right to Life House.
He contacted diocesan vicar general Msgr. Timothy Thorburn, "because he’s responsible for surplus items," and learned about the set that the School Sisters were sending back to the supplier. Then he called Mother Joan Paul to see if she’d be willing to ask the supplier if the damaged statues could be donated to the Right to Life prayer garden as they were.
The company graciously agreed, and Mr. Kouma and other Knights voluntarily patched the damaged parts and repainted the statues so they were "ready for battle," as one might say. Meanwhile, Knights from various Lincoln-area councils helped with fundraising. Private donors were found for each of the pedestals that would hold a statue.
In 2009, the repair work and fundraising was complete, and the prayer garden was installed behind the Lincoln Right to Life house with the help of Ray’s Lawn & Home care, which provided landscaping services, including free sod and labor.
Hundreds of people have prayed the stations there over the years, offering devotion to the Lord as they labored spiritually for the end of abortion and the salvation of all those participating in the evil destruction of unborn children.
"The prayer garden, with its dedicated prayer warriors, did its job," Mr. Kouma said, reasoning that Planned Parenthood’s decision to move to a commercial site farther away was in part due to the power of prayer emanating from the house next door.
When Planned Parenthood moved to 48th and Old Cheney earlier this year, the pro-life prayer team and Helpers of God’s Most Precious Infants naturally moved their silent, peaceful outreach program as well. While the fate of the Lincoln Right to Life house remains undecided at this point, one thing was certain: fewer people would be travelling there to pray the stations of the cross.
"The prayer garden had served its purpose and a new location was found on the grounds of the Cathedral of the Risen Christ," Mr. Kouma said.
Between the Chancery and the Blessed John XXIII Center on Sheridan Boulevard, the Cathedral of the Risen Christ’s property spans over the space of several city blocks, with the church, a parking lot, and the parish elementary school.
Mr. Kouma noted that there was a large space that was basically an "empty lot" – an expanse of grass that needed mowing and watering but provided little benefit to parishioners.
Now, Mr. Kouma and other Knights from Cathedral Council #9563 are turning it into a place of worship. They provided many hours of volunteer labor, plus funding to help create this new prayer garden.
The stations were removed from the Right to Life house some time ago and temporarily stored in Mr. Kouma’s garage. There, with a devoted heart, willing hands and cleaning supplies – including a toothbrush! – his wife, Myra, lovingly scrubbed every crevice of each of the statues to make them "good as new again."
"She felt it was such an honor to wash the body of Jesus," Mr. Kouma related.
A few weeks later, the brother Knights moved the statues and benches to their new location. Ray’s Lawn & Home Care once again responded with great generosity, donating a stone circular path along the interior of the garden. Benches enable people to spend more time in meditation when they visit.
The 14 stations, plus a "15th Station" depicting the Risen Christ were ready in time for Good Friday, and a large crowd gathered under beautiful weather to witness the blessing of the prayer garden and pray the stations.
"It looks like it always should have been there," Mr. Kouma said.
The landscape design is intentionally low-maintenance. Mr. and Mrs. Kouma have committed themselves to monthly visits to care for the statues so they remain in tip-top shape.
The project is now complete except for a statue of the Pieta which will be placed as a centerpiece for the garden sometime in May. There are also plans to add low-wattage spotlights, so the stations will be illuminated for those who wish to pray at night.
Mr. Kouma is pleased with what is hoped to be the final installation for these stations of the cross.
"Children from the Cathedral School are able to come visit and pray and have a close-up view of the statues," he said. And, as the Cathedral is the ‘home parish’ to the entire diocese, the prayer garden is open to all.
"A lot of people helped and they all deserve the credit," Mr. Kouma stated.