Garden honors Armed Forces at Horseshoe Bay parish

St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Horseshoe Bay held the groundbreaking for its Armed Forces Honor Garden on Pearl Harbor Day. The focal point of the garden is the “Lest We Forget” statue depicting Christ embracing a U.S. soldier (at left in photo above). The parish hopes to have the garden completed by Memorial Day. (Photo courtesy St. Paul the Apostle Parish)

By Carla L. Smith
Correspondent

It’s no secret that war is grueling and complex. No one longs for it and no one cares for it. Still, it is something that has been around for centuries and doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. If you ask someone who has witnessed war firsthand, they are sure to tell you the memories never go away and are often challenging to live with as the years go on. It’s those types of scars that St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Horseshoe Bay is hoping to heal with its Armed Forces Honor Garden.
Currently under construction and already proving popular, the garden will be a place where both veterans and their loved ones can visit for healing, honor and hope.
“War can be very unreal, and raw and complicated decisions are made during battles,” said Paulist Father Ruben Patiño, pastor of St. Paul and dean of the Lampasas/Marble Falls Deanery. “We want to help those who are hurting know this is a place of love and comfort and for those who feel estranged from the church, this is still home for them.”  
Father Patiño said he is always looking for opportunities for reconciliation and saw a natural fit when the idea of an honor garden was first brought to his attention. The topic also ties in with the recent Year of Mercy, during which the eight-member organizing committee began discussing the project. It is their hope that it brings peace to all who enter it, he said.
“If it works and helps even just one vet, then we’ve succeeded,” said garden Committee Chair Dick Heilman. “It will be a calming and quiet place where they can meditate or just be.”
Groundbreaking for the garden took place this past December and plans are for a May completion. Erected already and standing proudly as the garden focal point is the “Lest We Forget” statue depicting Christ embracing a U.S. soldier. That statue is what started it all.
Father Patiño explained that a St. Paul parishioner was travelling out west, saw a similar statue, and suggested to him that maybe one like it would be a nice addition to St. Paul’s campus. Father agreed to consider the idea, wrote to the artist, and the two began a dialogue. St. Paul parishioners supported the idea when presented with plans, which soon officially got underway.
Created by Canadian and devout Catholic sculptor Timothy Schmaltz, the statue was donated to St. Paul’s by parishioners Gary and Patty Broad. Gary is a U.S. Army veteran, and he and Patty were married at St. Paul in 2014. Schmaltz is also the artist of downtown Austin’s “Homeless Jesus” statue.
Once completed, the Honor Garden will consist of a water fountain emblazoned with memorial stars, a contemplative area of memorial plaques, and a walkway of paving stones honoring those who have served in the Armed Forces and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice doing so. In addition, as one enters the garden, there will be three thresholds that will be embossed with peace-themed Scripture passages.
Service to our country and a strong sense of patriotism have long been integral parts of St. Paul Parish, as have the themes of faith and peace. By creating this garden, the parish hopes to rebuild a sense of inner peace in those it honors and give back to the community it serves. 
“This is all a part of who we are as a parish people and it goes way beyond just our parish,” Father Patiño said. “There is a high level of military in our area so this is a way of honoring our own.”
In support of both active and retired military, all events have thoughtfully corresponded to a national patriotic event. The statue was unveiled on Flag Day, the groundbreaking took place on Pearl Harbor Day, and the official garden dedication is scheduled for Memorial Day.
The project also reflects St. Paul’s social justice component, which includes the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Knights of Columbus, a crisis center and many other programs and services that help both parishioners and residents of surrounding communities. 
A project that started small and has literally and figuratively grown from the ground up will soon serve as a permanent display honoring the sacrifices of many Americans. 
Anyone interested in participating in or supporting the project is asked to contact St. Paul’s parish office at (830) 598-8342 or visit www.stpaulshorseshoebay.org for more information.