Guelph’s most prominent landmark and tourist attraction will soon have a walking path and garden serving as a memorial to life lost through abortion and miscarriage.
Guelph and Area Right to Life is spending about $91,000 on the Garden of Grace, adjacent to Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate.
A figure-eight walkway has been installed. A mason is now laying limestone over the concrete. A pair of life-sized bronze sculptures, one depicting a praying Jesus holding a baby, the other a lamenting angel kneeling over an empty crib, will be placed in the garden. The figures are by sculptor Timothy Schmalz, based in the Kitchener area.
Garden plantings will happen next spring, said Jakki Jeffs, past-president of Guelph and Area Right to Life, and the founder and organizer of the garden. The space will also include seating.
“The idea behind the garden is that we have a lot of women who have, at one point or another, chosen to have an abortion,” Jeffs said. “And their children haven’t been given a place of rest.”
The garden will serve as a place for them to grieve, she said.
Jeffs said the land, on the east-facing slope of Catholic Hill, was made available by the church. Benefactors and members of Right to Life contributed funds to make the project happen. It has been in the works for three years.
The money, she said, came from “people who believe in life." The Basilica of Our Lady itself has not funded it. One donor gave the entire cost of one of the statues, while about 70 others gave varying amounts of cash contributions. The statues make up about $40,000 of the costs.
The garden is directly in front of the Basilica of Our Lady rectory, and at the top of the south side stairway up to the church.
The grand church, which has recently undergone millions of dollars in renovations, has long been the towering centrepiece of Guelph’s urban landscape.
Jeffs said many women who choose to have abortions come to have a deep regret for the decision. They need a public space where they can reflect on the “child they have lost.” The same need exists for women who have had miscarriages, she indicated.
“But there is nowhere for them to grieve and recognize those little ones,” she said. “I had the idea about three years ago that maybe we could find a space where it would be safe for them to do that, where they could recognize their little one and reflect on the decision they made.”
Cemeteries serve as places of remembrance for those who died, but there is no such place for life lost through abortion or miscarriage, Jeffs said.
“The Garden of Grace gives them room to vent the grief that society says they shouldn’t have,” Jeffs added.
“I’m hoping that people will respect the fact that, while society wants to ignore that we actually kill a child through abortion, the reality is very different,” Jeffs added. “Thousands of women, and men as well, regret that. The idea is to give them a space for their grief.”