by Kara Hansen
SHAWNEE — Most people would say — quite logically — that walking in circles will get you nowhere.
But Sacred Heart parishioners in Shawnee might see it a little differently.
That’s because parishioners recently constructed and blessed a labyrinth on their parish grounds.
The idea for the labyrinth originated with Sacred Heart’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program.
“Every year when our catechumens go on retreat, they walk a labyrinth as a way to reflect on their journey into the Catholic faith,” said Father Craig Maxim, pastor of Sacred Heart.
The catechumens really enjoyed the unique method of meditation and prayer. Soon after, the parish tried to replicate the experience for all parishioners. The first attempt was a temporary labyrinth set up in the parish hall, but it failed to recreate the experience of a permanent one.
Since at the time, planners were hard at work on the design of Sacred Heart’s church building, it was decided just to go ahead and add plans for one more building project.
“The labyrinth is very representative of who we are as a parish,” explained Ann Daugherty, parishioner and music director at Sacred Heart. “We have young and old parishioners, some whom have been here for years and some who are new.”
In other words, said Daugherty, who spearheaded the move toward having a permanent labyrinth at Sacred Heart, “There are many paths but one direction.”
The labyrinth has a circular, winding path leading to a clear center and back out again. It is designed to be walked slowly as a way of prayer and meditation, though there is no “one way” to experience a labyrinth.
“There’s no correct way to walk a labyrinth, but we encourage people to offer up prayers for people they know as they walk into the center, and to leave offering prayers of thanksgiving and praise,” said Father Maxim.
“It’s a completely different way to pray. It’s a journey,” added Daugherty. In medieval times, labyrinths were often used as a sort of pilgrimage for people who could not travel to Jerusalem. Instead, the faithful journeyed to the Gothic cathedrals of Europe to walk the labyrinth as a symbolic path to Jerusalem. The first labyrinth ever recorded dates back to the year 325.
But despite its long and storied history, Sacred Heart’s pastor thinks the labyrinth is particularly relevant for today’s Christians.
“In the midst of the craziness of our busy lives, people can come take a break and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation,” said Father Maxim.
Turf Design, a landscaping company owned and operated by Sacred Heart parishioner Adam Breidenthal, donated the labor required to design and build the labyrinth.
Funds to construct the labyrinth were raised by the music ministry at Sacred Heart. At the same time, the group also created a CD of music entitled “Labyrinth: Many Directions; One Path.”
The CD was released simultaneously with the labyrinth blessing, held on a scorching hot Aug. 12 at the parish.
Sacred Heart’s labyrinth is open to the public — for anyone who would like to come experience it.
“We would love for people to come and open their heart and mind to God, and start walking,” said Daugherty.
Sue Collins was one of the first of Sacred Heart’s parishioners to take up the challenge.
“At first I didn’t know what to expect. But, as I walked, I felt a spiritual change. I felt like a different person as I walked back out,” said Collins.
That first time, she spent 15 minutes walking alone, praying the rosary and other personal prayers. The experience left such an impact on Collins she is planning to integrate it into part of her regular prayer routine.
“It’s a place to come when I want solitude, and to spend that time alone in touch with God,” she said.