Bethany's new Mysteries of Joy Garden invites Nativity reflection this Advent and beyond

Bishop Alan Gates, Sister Ana Clara, OSA and Dawna Wal at new garden blessing Courtesy photo Bishop Alan M. Gates, Sister Ana Clara, OSA and Bethany House of Prayer's executive director, Dawna Wall, at the Oct. 2 blessing of the new Mysteries of Joy Garden.

On the brisk, blustery afternoon of Oct. 2, Bishop Alan M. Gates joined the Order of St. Anne and Bethany House of Prayer in Arlington to bless a newly created Mysteries of Joy Garden.  

The garden is planted where the refectory of the former St. Anne’s School, also known as the Germaine Lawrence School, was located. The building was taken down in 2021 and plans for how to best use the space were explored. A companion garden for the many beautiful spaces that are already a part of the property seemed a natural direction, and the addition of an accessible parking lot, with space for overnight parking, another. 

Lael Smith, the manager for the Order of St. Anne, and Scott Fulford from Otium Landscape worked together to create the garden with native plants and trees. Sister Ana Clara, OSA, the superior of the Order of St. Anne, worked with Bethany House's executive director, the Rev. Dr. Dawna Wall, to envision the name and meaning of the new garden, which joins the already established Angel, Labyrinth, St. Anne’s Memorial and Stations of the Cross gardens. 

The "Mysteries of Joy" are one way of praying the rosary and explore the stories around the Nativity. The garden is still in its early stages, with plans to add a mural on the back of the gymnasium to anchor the space in the artwork and history of the sisters, along with artwork to illuminate and encourage reflection on each of the joyful mysteries. 

“In a world that is always wrestling with pain and struggle, it is important to safeguard space for the great gift of God’s joy, and we hope that the garden will offer joy to those who visit,” Sister Ana Clara said.

Dawna Wall described the "Mysteries of Joy" to those assembled for the blessing: “The first mystery of joy is the Annunciation and we begin here at the top of the garden, where our questions meet God’s questions, posed to us by the angels in our midst, helping us to glimpse the mysteries yet to come. 

"The second mystery is a place of meetings, where lives come together with different stories to be shared and is symbolized here by the curved path from the parking lot to the next phase of the garden. 

"The third mystery is the Nativity, the birth of Christ, and is symbolized by the joyful color and abundance of fruit in the garden on the way to the patio. 

"The fourth mystery is the dedication of Jesus in the temple and the thanks we feel for those who see us as we are and help us name our place in God’s story. 

"The fifth mystery is finding Jesus in the temple, and the fear and relief we experience when that which is lost has been found in us and in our lives. It is a place we keep coming back to seek guidance and companionship.”  

As the garden continues to take shape, Scripture and artwork featuring diverse representations of the story will be added to help guide pilgrims through the mysteries in the days ahead, and the Advent offerings at Bethany House this year will be shaped around these themes.

Visitors are invited to stop by often to see how the mysteries continue to unfold in the Mysteries of Joy Garden at Bethany. Bethany House offerings can be found at its website: