Creating an outdoor place to pray the rosary

When Gabe Vega was a little boy, he was not the slightest bit interested in joining the Cub Scouts.

However, once he did it didn’t take long to overcome that initial resistance.

This is what the Blessed Mary’s garden looks like, at the completion of phase one of Gabe Vega’s Eagle Project. (Courtesy of Edwin Vega)

And now, the 16-year-old can’t wait to earn the rank of Eagle Scout — the highest honor a member of the Boy Scouts of America can achieve.

The completion of an Eagle project is one of the requirements necessary to earn that distinction.

And, Gabe — who belongs to Troop 33 based at Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church — is well on his way to accomplishing that.

After conferring with various groups at the Land O’ Lakes church, Gabe decided to build a Rosary Garden.

His garden features a garden, with a statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as its centerpiece, and a seashell path surrounding that garden, which will have engraved pavers, representing the beads of a rosary.

In the Roman Catholic Church, a rosary is a set of beads that are used in a form of devotion, during which five (or 15) decades of the Hail Mary are recited, preceded by an Our Father, and followed by a Glory Be.

Stones line the border of the path, which will be covered with seashells before pavers will be installed to signify rosary beads. Shown here, Spencer Huffman bends over to place a rock on the edge of the path, while a number of other volunteers help, too. (Courtesy of Edwin Vega)

To get started on the project, Gabe and his father, Edwin, visited a rosary garden at St. Paul Catholic Church, 12708 N. Dale Mabry Highway, for some ideas. That visit came at the suggestion of Leo Gendreau, who recommended Gabe check out that garden and consider creating one for Our Lady of the Rosary.

The Land O’ Lakes High School junior also talked things over with Rich Thibeau, of Natural Designs Landscaping, who is the teenager’s coach for the Eagle Scout project.

“He helped me map everything out. The kind of rocks we needed. The kind of flowers we were going to plant in the garden,” Gabe said. “I went with the idea of having the rocks and the crushed shell, then selling the pavers to have the beads.”

The project has involved help from many sources, said Gabe, who lives with his parents, Edwin and Sheila, and his twin sisters, Rosie and GiGi, in Land O’ Lakes.

The Rev. Ron Aubin, pastor at Our Lady of the Rosary, gave the project his blessing and his support. The monsignor allowed Gabe to run an article in the parish bulletin explaining the project and announcing the sale of pavers.

The pavers that will represent Hail Marys, and will be used as stepping stones on the shell pathway, sell for $100 each.

A set of four smaller pavers will be joined together to represent each Our Father and Glory Be. Each of those pavers goes for $75.

Edwin is delighted by how well the project is being received, and supported.

A group loads rocks in a pickup truck to carry them closer to the Rosary Garden being created at Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church. Working here, from left, are Sean Smith, Jim Pasek, Clayton Hagel, Matthew Thibeau and Tommy Ploor. (Courtesy of Edwin Vega)

“Everybody has been so nice and responsive,” he said.

“For me, this has taken on a life of its own, all of the support at the church. They’re spreading the word. They’re backing it up,” he said.

People have helped in all sorts of ways, Gabe and Edwin said.

The physical work has been done mostly by Gabe, his Scout friends and a few men from the church.

Contributions have come in through the sale of pavers, but also in many other forms, Edwin said.

For instance, the sod cutter needed to put down the seashell path was provided for free by Dot Geho, of West Coast Events and Rentals, and Joseph and Casie Lynn Holloway, of Holloway Farm Store, provided a free cement bench.

The statue of Mary, which now serves as the centerpiece of phase one of the project, was donated by Hal and Betty Montgomery.

“We had the Blessed Mother here (in the family’s family room) for months,” said Sheila Vega, Gabe’s mom.

Paver sales have been going well.

Sean Smith, left, and Gabe Vega carry a very large rock, with Evan Hernandez in the background. (Courtesy of Edwin Vega)

“This past Saturday is when we built the path. One gentleman came down and said he was going to buy one for each of his children, and he has six children,” Gabe said.

A woman called to say she would be buying a paver to honor the memory of her nephew, who was killed by a drunk driver.

Another woman, who initially thought she could only swing a $20 contribution had second thoughts and decided to go ahead and buy a $100 paver.

Building the first phase of the project — Mary’s garden — took two days.

“Day One was putting the boulders in and filling the hole with dirt. Day Two was putting all of the plants in,” he said, as well as installing the statue of Mary.

That part of the project involved help from a dozen scouts, and four or five adults, Edwin said.

“Those were big boulders we were moving,” he said. “We had to have a special cart. No one could lift it. It was so heavy.”

Gabe said that after a while, they came up with a better plan.

“Eventually, we just lifted them into the back of a pickup truck,” he said, and moved them closer to the site.

Building the seashell path, the next phase, took another day.

Eight scouts and a few adults helped that day.

All of the scouts, Gabe said, are close friends who he’s known since he was a Cub Scout.

This is the Rosary Garden, after the completion of the shell path. The final phase will be to install pavers, which represent the beads of a rosary. (Courtesy of Edwin Vega)

“It made it easy being the leader of them. The dynamic of it all was easy,” said Gabe, who is enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Program at Land O’ Lakes High.

The last phase will be to install the pavers.

Polar Engraving, which is engraving the pavers, is based in Naples. It was hit by Hurricane Irma, which has affected its schedule, Edwin said.

Overall, Edwin estimates the cost of the project to be about $10,000.

But, the value to the community, he said, far exceeds that.

Edwin expects the pavers to be ready before Thanksgiving, so they can be installed. Meanwhile, orders are still being taken for the pavers not yet sold.

Want to help?

If you’re interested in purchasing a ‘rosary bead’ paver engraved with your personal message, visit If you have questions, call Edwin Vega, (813) 838-2400, or email .

Published Oct. 4, 2017

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