Welcoming Prayer Garden - CODAworx

Welcoming Prayer Garden

Submitted by South Light Studio, Inc.

Client: Catholic Church of the Transfiguration

Location: Marietta, GA, United States

Completion date: 2006

Artwork budget: $100,000

Project Team


Msgr. Patrick Bishop

Transfiguration CC


Dale R. Molnar

South Light Studio, Inc.

water feature construction

Dr. Jay Brunette

private donor

bronze castings

Jack Ward

Ward Sculptural Arts

coring and fencing

John Harter

Absolutely Iron


Located at the entrance plaza to a Catholic church, an existing small triangular raised bed was transformed into a place of respite. A waterfall feature and large boulders mimic a rural scene and sets the stage for bronze sculptures telling the story of St. Francis. It is a welcoming prayer garden that serves as a transition from the secular world to a place of worship. The garden invites one to reconciliation and to love in all its forms. St. Francis with his arms open is displaying universal love. He welcomes all of God’s creation as he is welcoming the parishioners to Mass. The central statue is 40” tall. At the feet of the saint is a dog representing unconditional love (the basset chosen to represent a beloved dog). On the other side are two larks. St. Francis had a particular fondness for the song of the larks, and their hoods reminded him of monks. The birds are bobbing one wing to each other, a gesture of greeting for a gathering flock. They put forth the concept of fraternal love. In front of St. Francis, there is a fox and hare. The fox is presenting its neck to the hare. This is a canine gesture of non-aggression. The hare, instead of cowering is reaching out to the fox. This was conceived to emphasize atonement.


The project was conceived to offer a welcoming gesture to a community as they gather as well as a place to pause along the journey. In this way the sculpture garden serves to illustrate their first guiding principal – welcome – which leads to the other aspects expressed by the motto - * welcome * celebrate * grow * serve * .


Desiring to enhance the outdoor gathering space, the pastor approached the artist with a St. Francis theme. They worked together to develop the concepts which were then presented to the community during a fundraising campaign. Once the designs were accepted, the artist collaborated with a volunteer who provided equipment and materials to construct a water feature to serve as a setting for the sculptures. The artist was integral and participatory in every aspect of the garden and water feature installation (selection and placement of boulders and platform rocks, selection and installation of plant materials). The artist sculpted the figures and contracted with Ward Sculptural Arts to cast them in bronze. Installation was facilitated by Absolutely Iron for the coring of platform rocks and providing a safety fence per the artist’s design and instructions.