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posted: 7/16/2014 1:47 PM

Courtyard garden at Inverness parish is a labor of love

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  • Henry Smogolski relaxes in the garden he has helped nurture.

       Henry Smogolski relaxes in the garden he has helped nurture.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • The herons at the fountain were once in Henry Smogolski's Inverness backyard, but they fit perfectly here.

       The herons at the fountain were once in Henry Smogolski's Inverness backyard, but they fit perfectly here.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • St. Francis watches over the courtyard.

       St. Francis watches over the courtyard.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • The courtyard at Holy Family Parish in Inverness.

       The courtyard at Holy Family Parish in Inverness.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Paths invite parishioners to take meditative strolls.

       Paths invite parishioners to take meditative strolls.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Bursts of color interrupt the pathways.

       Bursts of color interrupt the pathways.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Ducks are drawn to the fountain in the courtyard.

       Ducks are drawn to the fountain in the courtyard.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Henry Smogolski of Inverness is the courtyard ministry coordinator for Holy Family Parish in Inverness.

       Henry Smogolski of Inverness is the courtyard ministry coordinator for Holy Family Parish in Inverness.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 

A pair of blue herons, motionless, pose in the courtyard fountain at Holy Family Parish in Inverness.

In fact, the statues hold the key to the success of the garden that has blossomed under the nurturing of caretaker Henry Smogolski of Inverness.

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It was his wife, Isabel, who nudged him into volunteering at the church, after he had retired from his role as president and CEO of a Chicago savings and loan.

Isabel passed away four years ago, but her imprint on the garden, and on her husband to become more involved in the parish remains, in the form of the heron statues. They belonged to her.

"I searched and searched for the right statue for the middle of the fountain," Smogolski says, "and then it dawned on me. These were at my home."

The herons grace the centerpiece of the reflective space, which increasingly is drawing parishioners and community members alike to appreciate its beauty.

"We've had three building campaigns since the church was built in 1988," says Heidi Rooney, parish communications director, "but we've made sure this was protected space."

Smogolski became involved three years ago, after his wife's passing. His first foray into volunteering reflected his banking background, when he stepped up to help count weekly donations. But he looked to do more.

"I answered an ad in the bulletin that looked for volunteers to work in the garden," says Smogolski, 83. "Two weeks after I started, the only other volunteer left to take a full-time job."

Smogolski laughs now about suddenly finding himself in charge, but he proved to be more than capable.

"I guess I had a vision to rejuvenate the garden," he says. "It was too beautiful to let go."

The garden he inherited had developed somewhat by piecemeal, with overgrown bushes and various flower beds planted at different times by parishioners.

However, under Smogolski's leadership, with the help of volunteers Ron Benn and Vera White, both of Barrington, the space has transformed into a peaceful retreat area, with separate garden beds and meditative areas, its fountain, benches and even soothing music.

A major donation from a parishioner kick-started the project, and soon the garden had new lighting, spotlights on the trees, memorial bricks and an expansive serving station for the many buffets that church officials now host outdoors.

Its uses have varied, from people gathering there after Sunday Masses, to photo sessions for weddings, graduation and family portraits. Parish officials also hold occasional concerts there in the summer, with the next one taking place at 6 p.m. on Aug. 2 and featuring the parish's music ministers.

The Rev. Terry Keehan, Holy Family's pastor, says the courtyard plays an important role for the parish beyond its natural beauty.

He describes it as a reflection of the progressive nature of their parish, which is in line with the spiritual and liturgical updates of the Second Vatican Council.

That became evident in 2005, when they remodeled the sanctuary and moved the baptismal font to the center of the congregation seating area.

"Similar to how we surround the baptismal font for worship, we surround the courtyard for all other activities in the parish," Keehan says. "Henry and his dedicated group of volunteers work in close collaboration with our staff to make our courtyard is one of the most prayerful and beautiful spaces in our community."

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