The figures emerge about an inch from the background surface of the mural, giving an especially striking effect with shadows around the figures when lit in the evenings. (Kristen Hannum/Catholic Sentinel)
The figures emerge about an inch from the background surface of the mural, giving an especially striking effect with shadows around the figures when lit in the evenings. (Kristen Hannum/Catholic Sentinel)
BEAVERTON — During the months Greg Lewis worked on the Resurrection Garden mural at Our Lady of Peace Retreat House, he often had the uncanny feeling of being watched. Looking up, he would see deer — a buck, two does and two fawns.

“They walked right through here,” Lewis said, gesturing toward the paved area in front of the mural and out toward the path of the Stations of the Cross that wind through the sisters’ woods.

Franciscan deer, no doubt.

Archbishop John Vlazny, former leader of the Portland Archdiocese, dedicated the finished Resurrection Garden mural March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. The deer were nowhere to be seen, although crabapple trees blossomed pink and white, and robins chimed in with Franciscan Sister Maria Benedicta Heminger’s guitar accompaniment to an “Alleluia” sung by a group of retreatants, sisters and supporters.

Archbishop Vlazny shared from the Gospel of Matthew with the small crowd, words that added to the optimism of the sunny Lenten day.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

“For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Mt 7:7-8).

“It will be Easter everyday with this shrine,” said Archbishop Vlazny, referring to the Risen Christ of the mural.

The archbishop gave thanks that the sisters, laid low by COVID-19 this winter, were doing so well.

Lewis held the aspersorium (the container that holds holy water) that Archbishop Vlazny dipped an aspergillum into, and the archbishop sprinkled the image with the holy water.

The Resurrection Garden began when Sr. Anne Marie Warren, superior general, walked the newly paved path through the wooded Stations of the Cross. She wrote in the sisters’ newsletter that she noticed “at the end of the path that there was a building and an unkempt area. I immediately had a vision of a beautiful area for prayer with a mural portraying St. Clare and St. Francis.”

Franciscan Sister Angela Aldi, gardener at the retreat house, remembered when the area was a rabbit hutch. She liked Sister Anne Marie’s idea — the gardens needed a Franciscan presence. But she soon suggested that the mural also include the resurrected Christ.

Later the sisters decided that the human figures of their order should also be included.

They knew Lewis because he had restored a damaged marble statue of Mary holding Jesus for them — and he had volunteered to help with other projects.

Lewis, a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Beaverton, restored the tarnished Stations of the Cross and also did major repairs to a statue of St. Joseph. The sisters knew he had also done work at Archbishop Vlazny’s private chapel, at Providence Hospital chapels and at churches around the archdiocese.

“Can you paint a mural?” they asked him.

Lewis sounded abashed as he said the sisters had prayed for a liturgical artist to help them.

The evolution of the mural is evident in a number of sketches Lewis presented the sisters.

At the dedication Sister Anne Marie also thanked Westside Masonry, which cleaned up and paved the area, Don Rolison, the maintenance manager, who repaired a fountain for the garden and added electricity for the lighting, and Franciscan Sister Angela Aldi, gardener, who added a bridge and many cherubim, who peek out from nearby trees