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11-04-02: Maria Stein Spiritual Center
Memorial to honor life in all stages

The Daily Standard

    MARIA STEIN - A unique memorial currently under construction on the grounds of the Maria Stein Spiritual Center will honor the gift of life - from conception to natural death.
    The Respect Life Memorial, which is taking shape in a wooded area west of the center, features two brick pathways leading to a central fountain. The 3-foot wall encircling the fountain will be topped with Scripture passages engraved in stone. The addition of benches in the rustic setting will provide a place for quiet reflection and lighting will add security. Planners also envision a large statue, perhaps one of Jesus with little children, and beautiful landscaping.
    Members of the Respect for Life Committee, an independent committee formed specifically for the project, began meeting more than a year ago to plan the memorial. Some wanted a path that would be symbolic of life's journey while others felt water should be included for its calm and peaceful properties.
    Paul Gray, an architect with Bruns Building and Development Corp. of St. Henry, took the ideas presented at the meetings and sketched a design proposal.
    "We feel God's hand guided him," said committee member Joan Homan. "It was an overwhelming experience to see everything right there on paper. Seeing the memorial come to life reaffirms our commitment in such a beautiful way."
    Site preparation began last spring as volunteers cleared a large circular area in the midst of the existing woods. A rustic Nativity scene is located nearby. Seventy to 80 loads of fill dirt were brought in prior to the foundation work commencing Aug. 10.
    A huge rock, weighing more than 6 tons, was installed as the focal point. With a hole bored through the center, it will serve as the fountain with hidden pumps recirculating the water.
    "We have been blessed with lots of volunteer work," said Therese Homan, a Mercer County Right to Life representative to the building committee. "Whenever we need help, somebody shows up and brings along a friend."
    Cultured stone veneer is being applied to 1,000 feet of block walls at the present time. Virgil "Bud" Bertke, a retired brick and stone mason with decades of experience, can be found deftly wielding a trowel at the site most days. Working with him are two other veterans - Bill Wendel, a semi-retired brick and stone mason who has 31 years of service with Albert Freytag Inc. of Minster, and Ken Bertke, a 25-year employee of H.A. Dorsten Inc. of Minster. 
    Engraved bricks will be used to pave the paths leading to the central fountain. These are being sold for $20 each to individuals, families, businesses and local organizations. Each brick has two lines for personalizing - the first for the name of the person being honored and the second for a community name, family name or remembrance date. There is a limit of 20 characters, including letters, spaces and punctuation, per line. Certificates are available for anyone wishing to give an engraved brick as a gift. Although this will be an ongoing project, a deadline of Dec. 15 has been slated for the first set of bricks.
    Just as each brick is important for the support of the bricks around it, each person's life, no matter how short or long, is important to the lives around them, according to Therese Homan.
    "Everyone has their own reason for wanting a brick," she added. "People who suffered a loss through abortion or miscarriage have no marked grave to visit. They see a brick as a tribute to tiny lives that held so much promise. One woman ordered a brick because she wants her family to always be pro-life and the message will be etched in stone. Others want to honor relatives and friends."
    The estimated cost of material for the project is $25,000 to $30,000, with donations coming from individuals and groups. All labor and equipment has been donated. Donors giving more that $500 will be recognized on an indoor plaque while the names of those contributing $5,000 or more are to be listed on an outdoor plaque. All donations are earmarked for construction as well as continued maintenance of the memorial.
    Supporting organizations thus far include the Spiritual Center, the Knights of Columbus and the Knights of St. John.
    Initially, the memorial was to honor the unborn and to assist Project Rachel programs offered at the Spiritual Center. Project Rachel is a program sponsored by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which provides counseling and support to women who have had an abortion. Research encouraged local committee members to broaden the scope of the planned memorial to include all stages of life.
    Although abortion remains one of the major concerns of the pro-life movement, other procedures like stem cell research, assisted suicide and euthanasia are equally important. Therefore, the movement has begun to focus on the concept that all life deserves dignity, from conception until natural death. The memorial is being constructed upon that foundation.
    Anyone having questions about purchasing an engraved brick or making a donation should contact Therese Homan at 419-925-4000.


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