Archbishop Nelson Pérez blesses a new rosary garden at St. Albert the Great Parish, Oct. 30. Once a muddy patch of ground, the parcel was transformed by parishioner Robert Lewcun as part of a two-year Eagle Scout project that ultimately required almost 100 volunteers, 6,000 hours of labor and more than $100,000 in funding. (Photo by Sarah Webb)

What was once a “muddy, swamplike and unusable” patch of ground at a Montgomery County parish is now a place of beauty and prayer, thanks to an Eagle Scout and dozens of his supporters.

Archbishop Nelson Pérez blessed a newly unveiled rosary garden Oct. 30 at St. Albert the Great Parish in Huntingdon Valley, sprinkling holy water along a path in which large paver stones, framed by gravel and Belgian blocks, mark the rosary beads of the beloved Marian devotion.

Encased images of the rosary’s mysteries, painted by St. Albert School art teacher Stacy Castor, are mounted on posts at each of the “Our Father” stones. A fountain stands at the center of the circular path, which ends at a restored life-sized crucifix that once hung in the church. A statue of Our Lady of the Rosary, encircled by flowers and stones, watches over the garden.

Launched in October 2019, the project was a two-year “labor of love” by Robert Lewcun, a member of Boy Scout (BSA) Troop 97 in Bryn Athyn and a graduate of St. Albert the Great School.

Ultimately, the tasks of creating the garden — felling trees, leveling ground, placing stones, planting flowers, installing electrical and water lines — required 92 people, more than 6,000 hours of labor and well over $100,000, according to Lewcun.

With the administrative support of the parish, Lewcun directly raised $30,000, an amount generously supplemented by donated labor and funds from a number of local families and businesses, including the Antonio and Kristi Aspite family, Cranch Landscapers, RNK Electric, Property Maintenance and Gardening, Robinson Landscape and Sweeney Landscaping and Tree Services.

(View a photo gallery of the Oct. 30 rosary garden dedication at St. Albert the Great Parish.)

At the outset, Lewcun had no idea the Eagle Scout project, which he’d initially envisioned as “a few benches for a local trail,” would blossom into a complex initiative that united dozens in a shared and sacred mission.

For his Eagle Scout project, Robert Lewcun (center) transformed a muddy patch of land at St. Albert the Great into a rosary garden dedicated by Archbishop Nelson Pérez (right) assisted by St. Albert pastor Msgr. Joseph Duncan. (Sarah Webb)

After focusing on a project that would benefit his parish and its school, Lewcun met with St. Albert pastor Msgr. Joseph Duncan and director of religious education Dennis Mueller.

“We talked about the possibilities – either a swimming pool and an outdoor bar, or a rosary garden,” joked Msgr. Duncan to some 150 attendees on hand for the dedication. “We decided on the rosary garden.”

Director of youth ministry Jonathan DeMent soon joined the team, but before any stones could be laid, the ground itself had to be reclaimed from runoff water streaming from the parish’s parking lot, said Lewcun.

“Eagle Scout projects usually only take about 100 to 200 hours,” said BSA Troop 97 scoutmaster John Mach. “Robbie did what is probably the equivalent of 60 projects.”

The undertaking was a sacrificial one, Mach added, since Lewcun deferred his opportunity to attain Eagle status by one full year in order to complete the rosary garden.

He also gave up “much of his personal life … while balancing the demands of his schoolwork” in the process, said Lewcun’s mother Mary.

“Many hot days in the summer, many dark evenings, many weekends were spent by Robbie, his parents and his sister Molly along with friends — clearing, measuring, digging and planting,” said Msgr. Duncan.

“It was pretty overwhelming, if you want the honest truth,” said Lewcun’s father and BSA Troop 97 assistant scoutmaster Dr. Robert Lewcun. “We’re not professionals. We were on our hands and knees.”

Prayer sustained the project, he added.

“We asked the Blessed Mother to help get us through it,” said Dr. Lewcun. “You talk about whistling while you work – well, we prayed while we worked. It was a good chance for us to reflect. I think the praying kept me from crying.”

The rosary is a particularly powerful form of prayer, and one that is uniquely Catholic, said Archbishop Pérez.

“If there is a prayer aside from the celebration of the Eucharist that is truly ‘Catholic on steroids,’ it is the rosary, given to us as a gift by the Blessed Mother herself,” he said. “And she asks that we pray it every day, sometimes even multiple times a day.”

Through the mysteries of the rosary, the Blessed Mother “(points) us to Christ himself, as we think about the different moments in his life,” said the archbishop. “We can relate to those moments at different times in our own journey.”

Mary herself “lies also at the center of our Catholic faith, right along with her Son (and) leading us to her Son,” said Archbishop Pérez.

“Seasoned” Catholics tend to find in the rosary “a great source of comfort, especially in difficult and challenging moments,” he said, while urging youth and young adults to “make sure you have a rosary, and hold onto that rosary.”

That’s something Lewcun says he plans to do.

“I’ll definitely be praying the rosary a lot more because of this project,” he said. “This really deepened my faith.”

At an Oct. 30 dedication ceremony, Archbishop Nelson Pérez incenses handpainted images of the rosary mysteries at St. Albert the Great Parish’s new rosary garden, an Eagle Scout project undertaken by parishioner Robert Lewcun. (Sarah Webb)