The lady in red leading a walking meditation is parishioner Laurie Bair. She left us too soon. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last September, she died December 5th, one day after her birthday. And in that passing, she achieved one of her goals: she did not die on her grandson's birthday which was the next day. Those who knew Laurie weren't surprised. When she made up her mind about something, it usually happened.
This was certainly the case with Holy Cross' impressive handmade canvas labyrinth. When former pastor Fr. Mark Stetz expressed interest in the idea, she did all the research and legwork that made it happen. It was ordered from a company in St Louis, Missouri that had been making them since 1995. They had taken their inspiration from Grace Cathedral in San Francisco where Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress had founded the Worldwide Labyrinth Project.
The Holy Cross Labyrinth, based on the famous Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth in France, arrived in the spring of 2009. Laurie and her team set to work. First on the agenda would be a parish blessing of the labyrinth which took the form of a Lenten Retreat. Described as a "spiritual tool" for those seeking a deeper connection to the divine, the labyrinth"reduces stress, quiets the mind and opens the heart. It is a walking meditation, a path of prayer, and a blue-print where psyche meets Spirit.” [Rev. Artress]. Perfect for Lent.
The hand-painted labyrinth was set up in the hall on March 28th, following the detailed instructions of its painter and part-owner of Labyrinth Enterprises, Judy Hopen. It is a signed piece of artwork which promised to facilitate the prayer practice of hundreds, thousands of seekers, young and old.
It should be noted that the canvas pieces were laid out on a muslin base sewn by the late Rita Mockus, Holy Cross' treasured volunteer seamstress responsible for the creation of banners, altar cloths and other items still used in our liturgies. Laurie, Fr. Mark and volunteers were up to the task of removing the pieces of canvas from their container and piecing them together, finding the challenge deeply rewarding!
The Labyrinth Team was ready for Sunday's Parish Retreat! In the final photo Laurie is flanked by Alfredo Manrique and Norma Brenner on her right and Ziggy Rendler-Bregman, Claudia Manrique and Fr. Mark Stetz on her left. The next day, March 29th, the parish couldn't wait to see and try out the labyrinth! And here they are doing just that.............But first! A gathering and welcoming by lay leaders Ziggy and Alfredo and a highlight...the ribbon-cutting by Fr. Mark. Now blessed by our presence, the labyrinth was ready for its first steps onto the canvas by Fr. Mark, followed by eager parishioners.
Especially cherished is this photo of Laurie, obviously delighted with the results as she smiles at a young walker/meditator exiting the labyrinth. Husband Paul is by her side.
Other activities filled the afternoon retreat: a simple labyrinth which gave younger practitioners some outdoor time, art, crafts, and prayer stations - all the practices and tools that are part of the sacred path.
During the years to come the labyrinth has continued to be an integral part of parish retreats, the Mary Magdalene celebration and the annual New Year's Eve Vigil for Peace. At every event Laurie was there to set it up and put it away.
When she wasn't meditating within the labyrinth, Laurie would sit nearby as seen above, guiding participants new to the experience and quietly answering questions. (Here she is at the New Year's Eve Vigil in 2019.) The next day she would return and, with help, pack the labyrinth in its container where it would stay till the next event.
That next event will be a Memorial Service for Laurie on Thursday, July 22nd, Feast of St. Mary Magdalene. All who experienced her as friend, mentor, confidante, and/or woman of vision and faith are invited to cele-brate her life. Laurie composed the liturgy, so of course, the labyrinth will be included. Doors will open at 9:30 a.m. for prayer, meditation, and walking the labyrinth. The Memorial Service begins at 11 a.m.
The story of the Lady of the Labyrinth concludes with photos of Laurie at work setting up the labyrinth --- all by herself! Enjoy the last one especially. It will make you laugh, and Laurie would have liked that.