Behind the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception stands a lovely statue of Mary with the child Jesus, facing the refectory on campus, where students and guests share meals and stories. The statue originally stood with a simple assortment of flowers and ornamental rocks, similar to other statues on campus.
The current, beautiful landscape that surrounds Our Lady is now vastly different, and has been named the Pati Dowdle Memorial Garden. All roads lead to Mary, passing flowering trees and a flower garden, with benches to sit and reflect, and kneelers to take time to pray. With the new addition of a Welcome Center and Bookstore to the existing refectory building, the garden and statue are now the welcoming sight to many visitors.
The Dowdle Garden was designed in honor and memoriam of Pati Dowdle Lehman, the daughter of Jim and Sally Dowdle. Jim had served as president of our Board of Advisors for many years, leading the University of Saint Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in new, fruitful building and fundraising efforts with admirable humility and dedication.
The intention of the garden was to elevate the honor of the Marian statue, leading people past Our Mother on a daily basis, with hopes that they would offer a prayer for Pati as they walked through. Many seminarians take time over their lunch break to stop at the statue and pray the Angelus, or offer a few Hail Marys as they pass Our Lady.
Each May, the statue of Mary in the Dowdle Garden is the focal point of a May Crowning celebration, where hundreds of people gather to honor Our Lady. The statue is surrounded by people praying and singing to Mary, with a crown of flowers placed around her head.
Jim Dowdle passed in 2014, and his son-in-law Bill Burke in 2017. So the next time you visit the campus, and the statue of Mary greets you, please be encouraged to say a prayer for the Dowdle family, Pati, Jim, and Bill.