For parishioners of Clarks Summit's Our Lady of the Snows Church, 301 S. State St., Rocco's Gardens have been a place to celebrate and meditate since the 1980s.

Gracing the church's grounds along State Street, the gardens were first conceived as a way to beautify the fieldstone walls located on the property. Having fallen into disarray, a group of parishioners is now seeking to restore the gardens to their former splendor.

Mary Ann Cornell, a parishioner of Our Lady of the Snows for the past seven years, explained how she got the idea to start revitalizing the gardens.

"A few years ago, I noticed that the gardens were in need of some work so I just decided to talk to some other people about the possibility of volunteering and working on the existing gardens," she said. "Last summer, we received a donation from some parishioners who wanted to buy shrubs and perennials for the very front of the gardens facing State Street. We have a group of about five or six loyal volunteers and we meet weekly during the summer and work on different parts of the garden. The gardens were there and they needed tending. We want people to enjoy them because we are proud of them; our church is central to Clarks Summit, everyone is welcome on these grounds."

The parochial vicar of Our Lady of the Snows/Church of St. Benedict Parish, the Rev. Jeff Tudgay, explained that former pastor Monsignor Joseph Fadden and Rocco Serine, who was the church custodian and maintenance man from the 1950s to the 1980s, both sought out ways to beautify the church's grounds.

"Rocco Serine is the one who created the gardens, which are named in his honor," he said. "Rocco took it upon himself to start working with them. The stone that was used to construct this church was hewn out of the ground where the church currently sits. The fieldstone wall behind the church is where the stone that was used to build the church. Rocco found a way to do landscaping and plant flowers to make it beautiful behind the church."

"Monsignor Joseph Fadden was the pastor here from 1974 to 1986 and he was the one who desired to beautify the grounds," he continued. "He built the rectory; and with some parish funds and a good deal of personal funds, he funded the beautification of the gardens."

Parishioners are seeking donations as well as volunteers to help refresh the gardens; including services such as stone work to help reset and restore the fieldstone walls. A garden cocktail party was held in May to secure donations for the project and further fundraisers are slated for later this year.

"This church is the focal point of the community, as is the case with any church," Tudgay said. "Worship is at the center of community life and Our Lady of the Snows church is the mother church of the Abingtons. That being said, it is a beautiful church and the grounds are beautiful and beauty reflects God. There is a way in which the restoration of these gardens is a way to praise God."

"At the same time, we have a group of parishioners who have really spearheaded this," he continued. "What we are able to see is that our parishioners are taking ownership of their parish. This parish belongs to them. There is a lot to do and a lot to keep up with it and this shows them taking ownership of their parish. It taps into the time and talent dimension of stewardship, which is an incredible thing. We are seeing the beautiful results of their work and dedication."

Anyone interested in contributing to the Rocco's Gardens restoration project may contact Our Lady of the Snows/Church of St. Benedict by calling 586-1741, emailing OLS2@epix.net or visiting www.olssb.com.

"The ongoing efforts have raised an incredible amount of awareness of the need for everybody to take over ownership of their parish," Tudgay said. "This is everybody's home. This is the home of this community. As a family, we take care of our homes and that is what we are doing. We are beautifying the place where we come to worship God."Parishioners seek to revitalize gardens at Our Lady of the Snows