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SVC Dedicates Outdoor Labyrinth for Meditation, Relaxation and Spiritual Reflection

Public Relations
Posted: Monday Sep 19, 2011
Saint Vincent College dedicated its newly-constructed outdoor labyrinth on September 14.

The labyrinth is a circular paved walking path that has been used for meditation, relaxation and spiritual reflection since ancient times.

The newest addition to the Saint Vincent campus has been created on a high, level area located between the tennis courts and the Gerard Hall residence hall.

According to Mary Alice Armour, R.N., director of the Saint Vincent College Wellness Center, “In January of this year a few hearty souls hiked up to this spot on a windy day in a foot of snow. We wanted to see if would be a good place to construct our labyrinth. Through all the snow and bare trees of winter, we saw the possibilities, and moved ahead with the dream. There is a Latin phrase ‘solvitur ambulando’ which means ‘it is solved by walking.’ The labyrinth represents the inner pilgrimage we are called to make to take us to the center of our being. It can help to quiet the mind and prepare us to listen to God. It helps us to pray with our hearts, and offers the opportunity for spiritual reflection with peaceful results. The prayer labyrinth is not a maze, and rather has one path on which we cannot get lost. It serves as a symbol of individual life journeys and the pilgrimage of faith. While labyrinths have been around for centuries, they have re-emerged over the past 20 years and now appear in churches, schools, hospitals and on our campus. We have been very fortunate in this process to have the support of our President, Brother Norman Hipps, O.S.B.; our vice president for student affairs, Mary Collins; the Senior Class of 2011; Student Government Association president Renold Sossong and all of the representatives; the time and talent of Gene Bert, our landscape architect; the generosity of several donors; and the cooperation of multiple departments in the college. It truly has been a community effort with wonderful results.”

“While it is proper to extend gratitude to so many who have contributed to this labyrinth, I want to personally thank you for your leadership, Mary Alice, and to your team who have made this happen,” Br. Norman Hipps, O.S.B., president, remarked. “In a world which focuses too much on the negative, it is a great joy for me to witness the positive fruits of promoting healthy lifestyles at Saint Vincent College. To be honest with you, my first experience of a real-live labyrinth was actually half a world away from here, in ‘The Land of the Rising Sun.’ A traveling group from California was making its way through Japan, bringing a “portable” labyrinth with them to literally unfold for people to experience. I wasn’t totally sure what to make of it, but since then, I have learned a lot, so much as to ask myself: ‘How come this subject never came up in my own educational experience?’ You would think it would have been a natural topic somewhere along the way. I mean, after all, labyrinths were well-known in the vicinities of Christian Churches down through the ages. One of the most famous is still at the Cathedral of Chartres, where the path is well-worn by centuries of men and women and children, who have stopped there to lift up their hearts to God in prayer. It truly takes your breath away, knowing that people have brought their joys and sorrows, some even confessing prayers of repentance, to these circles of inspiration. Many times we hear ourselves say: ‘I need to sit and think about that for a while.’ The labyrinth invites us instead to imitate the biblical figure of Abraham, when God told him ‘to get up and go!’ (Genesis 12:1). Likewise, we too can see our lives unfold according to some higher Plan. The Chinese sage Confucius is famous for stating the simple observation that ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ Ever since you stepped foot on this campus, your life became entwined with the lives of so many others, who have come here to grow in knowledge and wisdom. Even more, I am no longer able to count the number of people who have come here for an education, but also to find the love of their life along the way! The simple, quiet presence of this labyrinth is here to allow us to pause from the thousand things we need to do each day, to reflect, and to be grateful for all of the love and generosity of those who have carried us to this place in life, and to give us hope to step into the future with greater confidence and peace of mind. I know what the simple beauty of a labyrinth has taught me late in life. I am happy to know that you will carry this spot with you in your hearts, as we live together, love together, and walk together, with hearts overflowing with the inexpressible joy of knowing that each of us has our part to play in God’s divine Plan.”

The circular Saint Vincent labyrinth is 30 feet in diameter and constructed with durable materials including granite Belgian blocks, gravel and rock dust with geotextile underlayment.

The labyrinth was funded by a gift from the senior class of 2011, several individual donors, the offices of Student Affairs, Wellness Center, Facility Management, Campus Life, and the Saint Vincent College Fire Department.

Construction got underway last spring after groundbreaking in April. The contractor was Bert’s Landscaping of New Alexandria.

Following the ribbon cutting, Healthy Living Day began in the Robert S. Carey Student Center with information about how foods can prevent and reverse disease, chiropractic screenings, chair massage, on-campus Zumba demonstrations, information about healthy relationships, good sleep habits and relaxation therapy.

Dedication attendees each received a souvenir labyrinth keychain.


Photo: Participating in the ribbon-cutting ceremony were, from left, Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B., president; Renold Sossong, president of the Student Government Association Executive Board; Mary Alice Armour, R.N., director of the wellness center; Kim Yanicko, C’11, president of her senior class; Gene Bert of Bert’s Landscaping; and Fr. Killian Loch, O.S.B., director of campus ministry.