Those looking out of the northernmost windows of the Main Building have seen a rather new occurrence throughout the last six weeks. At all hours of the day, a quick look out those windows reveals students in quiet prayer, friends and families taking a stroll, and all members of the Saint Ignatius community honoring two great teachers in front of the Blessed Mother.
Yes, the Marian Mall has made its debut. Months of mud and construction have given way to stone and silence–save for the soft rippling of water pouring out from beneath the white stone statue of Mary. A stunning grotto now rises in front of the Jesuit Residence, with the eight Corporal Works of Mercy embedded within it. The walkways, beautifully landscaped, provide numerous areas for sitting in contemplative prayer. Planted in the ground facing the statue of Mary is a bronze casting of Jim Skerl’s size 15 feet–perhaps where Mr. Skerl would have stood were he still alive today.
The vision for this contemplative sacred space was conceived just before the untimely passing of Skerl ’74, an alumnus and longtime faculty member. When presented with the concept of this project being constructed in his memory, Jim embraced the idea of a grotto, where faculty, staff, and students could encounter Christ and the Blessed Mother through prayer and meditation. It was built in his memory and that of his longtime mentor, veteran Theology teacher Michael “Doc” Pennock ’64.
On May 18, Saint Ignatius community members, friends and Marian Mall benefactors gathered to dedicate this sacred space. With a Mass in St. Mary of the Assumption Chapel, a candle-lit procession to the Mall, and a rosary prayer service, the newest prayer space on campus was formally blessed and offered in memory of Pennock and Skerl.
The Marian Mall is a beautiful example of our school community coming together to honor, memorialize, and continue the exemplary way that Jim and Doc inspired young men to know, love, and serve Jesus Christ.