Mrs. Dunlap Weeds, Waters, Heads Upkeep of Prayer Garden


Carly Noble, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

For many Notre Dame Academy faculty members, students and visitors, the first thing visible when they pull into the parking lot is the Prayer Garden.

This beautiful garden is located across from the faculty lot near the tennis courts.

Also referred to as “The Rosary Garden,” it would not be possible without the efforts of NDA staff member, Mrs. Char Dunlap.

English teacher Carolyn Brown emphasized all the work Mrs. Dunlap has put into the garden.

“I come by school almost every weekend,” said Mrs. Brown, “and it’s a rare visit when Mrs. Dunlap is not here watering or weeding in the garden.  I often see Patty Schick here too.”

Believe it or not, there was a smaller garden in the same space back when it was called the “Anniversary Garden,” which was created to mark the ten-year anniversary of Notre Dame.

It later became a prayer garden put together as an Eagle project by Kyle Sladek, former NDA student.

However, this garden wasn’t getting the attention it needed, so in order to keep it up Dunlap began taking care of the garden herself.

Along with Mrs. Dunlap, a few parent volunteers helped, including Mrs. Eileen Burnett, Mrs. Tina Pallini, Mrs. Schick and Mrs. Beth Simonet.   Eventually the idea of raising funds to create a Rosary Garden was presented to Mr. Bob Pauly.   

“The Prayer Garden provides an opportunity for NDA families, staff, alumni and the community to come together and spend time in prayer and reflection,” Mrs. Dunlap said.

The garden is funded through “In Memory Of” and “In Honor Of” opportunities by those purchasing Hail Mary beads, Our Father beads, benches, the statue of Mary, the planter, Mystery beads as well as many other donors. Generally speaking, the funds to maintain the garden are overseen by the Building & Grounds Committee of the School Board.

With the many helping hands of volunteers and the NDA maintenance department, there are only a few hours a week that go into caring for the garden.

The garden is often used by the theology classes, the Rosary group on Wednesdays and family members who come to think about their loved ones.

“The frequent use of the garden really warms my heart. It is also one of the most photographed locations on graduation day,” said Mrs. Dunlap.

Her favorite part about the garden is “stepping through the flower-covered arbor and looking straight ahead at the statue of Mary surrounded by flowers.”

“One of the things I appreciate about the garden is its simplicity. I think it is beautiful and perfect just as it is,” she said.

There have been ideas about bringing more beauty closer to the Atrium entrance, but nothing is definite for now.

Mrs. Dunlap encourages everyone to “consider visiting at night when the garden is softly lit, and Mary is featured by special lighting.”