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St. Joseph's memorializes former school, parishioners

By Staff
GARDEN WORKER Washington McKenzie of McKenzie Brothers Inc. prepares to lay a memorial stone in St. Joseph's Brick Meditation Garden. Photo by Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Oct. 20, 2001
After they painfully watched their beloved school demolished, the parishioners of St. Joseph's Catholic Church decided firmly the space would not become a parking lot.
Now, three years after bulldozers tore down the historic Mount St. Joseph Colored School at 1914 18th Ave., the foundation there supports another endeavor the St. Joseph Brick Meditation Garden.
The garden, which sits atop the former school's foundation, is surrounded by a wall of bricks from the original school, a school built not only for Catholics, but for people of all cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds.
Within the wall are memorials and tributes to both the living and dead. The wall surrounds a statue of St. Joseph, and bricks with more memorials and tributes lie beneath his feet. Just below the statue sits the cornerstone of the old school, boasting its 1910 construction date.
James Chaney, a former altar boy and a slain civil rights worker, is memorialized here, along with the Rev. Arthur Winters, the first African American pastor of the church and the Rev. John Kersten, an original member of the Society of the Divine Word, which established the school.
Also memorialized are Mother Katherine Drexel, now a saint, who donated $11,000 in the early 1900s for the school's construction, the nuns who first taught at the school and the classes of 1946, 1954 and 1961, the last graduating class.
Among the 140 current memorials are Meridian residents James Bishop, the first graduate of the school and current owner of Enterprise Funeral Home, and Mamie Bragg Sudbury, who is considered to be the "mother of the church."
The garden, in its first phase, will next be landscaped with flowers, shrubs and pear trees. Parishioners have already spent about $20,000 received in grants and private donations.
The garden is a place for spiritual uplifting, where people can find peace among the flowers, singing birds, fresh air, and rejoice in the accomplishments of those remembered there, Mosley said.
Parishioner Sharon Smith said the garden returns the church to its roots.
Mosley said the garden has developed slowly since its inception three years ago, but the efforts are paying off.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3236, or e-mail her at mtodd@themeridianstar.com.

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