Shrine seeks volunteers to help build labyrinth

New feature will serve as meditation, walking prayer garden

Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2001

Shifting two-pound beach cobbles may not seem a spiritual exercise, but it can be if those cobbles are arranged to form a 61-foot labyrinth.

The Shrine of St. Therese invites local residents to place granite rocks gathered in front of the LaVasseur and Post Office cabins as a meditation and walking prayer garden. The labyrinth is based on a pattern from Renaissance France.

From the beginning of the shrine, youth and adults have toted beach cobbles for the construction of the chapel, the Stations of the Cross, and for the foundation of the retreat lodge, said shrine director Thomas Fitterer.

"In helping to move cobbles to form the labyrinth, people will be building on the history of the shrine," he said.

Close cousins of the mazes and knot gardens created of trimmed evergreen hedge, labyrinths are spiritual paths. They take the shape of concentric rings connected to form a single road. During the Renaissance, they were constructed as stone pavements laid within the floors of cathedrals or in monastery gardens, said project coordinator Janis Burns-Buyarski.


Planning for the future: Shrine of St. Therese director Thomas Fitterer talks about long-term plans for the area in 1997 when the expansion began. The shrine is looking for volunteers to help build a 61-foot labyrinth, which will serve as a meditation and walking prayer garden.


The best-known pattern is the one used in the floor of Chartres Cathedral in 1201. It is an 11-circuit pattern which beckons people of all faith, or "no faith," to walk among four quadrants in preparation for worship. The pattern is linked to the revival of Christianity after the Dark Ages. For those who could not make an arduous pilgrimage to Jerusalem, walking a labyrinth was a local substitute.

St. Therese is named for Therese of Lisieux (1873-97), the Little Flower of Jesus, who entered a convent in France at age 15 and died of tuberculosis nine years later. She exemplified the "little way," "the labor of love" - achieving goodness by performing the most humble tasks.

"The whole bedrock of the Shrine of St. Therese is that we can love in a little way. We don't have to be big-name people. The kindness that we do, the willingness to listen to another without retaliating - those little things. It's the ministry of helping out, of participating in what needs to be done," Fitterer said this morning.

Volunteers are asked to come to the Shrine from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 29 and 30. About 3,000 rocks need to be put into position.

"There will be a pattern spray-painted on the ground so people will know where to embed the rocks," Fitterer said.

"We have had kids hauling the rocks" to the site of the labyrinth, Burns-Buyarski said. "It should be fun. Once it's in place, people will be able to walk it at leisure."

Fitterer and the Shrine's Board of Directors have invited the general public as well as members of all local congregations to participate. For details, contact Ed Buyarski or Janis Burns-Buyarski at 789-2299 or

When the labyrinth is ready, pilgrims enter with a prayer request - or simply seeking direction on their life's journey.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at

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