Diocesan News

Mother’s Long-Lost Memorial to Child Revived in Marian Garden at St. Agnes

Father Paul Anel, pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Carroll Gardens, snips the ribbon at the rain-soaked but joyous grand opening of the new Marian Garden. (Photo: Bill Miller)

CARROLL GARDENS — The grand opening of the new Marian Garden at St. Agnes Parish on Saturday, May 20, was an event four decades in the making, and the pouring rain did not delay it.

About two dozen parishioners huddled beneath umbrellas to see Father Paul Anel, the pastor, cut the ribbon for the Marian Garden at the historic church and then sprinkle it with holy water. 

The garden’s centerpiece is a statue of the Blessed Mother. It replaces an earlier statue that memorialized Victor Grant, a teen from the parish who drowned at a Boy Scout summer camp.

His distraught mother, having lost her only child, purchased the original statue to show appreciation to the Sisters of St. Joseph at the parish, who helped her grieve.

The Marian Garden’s centerpiece is a statue of the Blessed Mother (shown here), which replaces an earlier statue purchased by the mother of Victor Grant, a teen from the parish who drowned in 1967. Mrs. Grant purchased the original statue (below) as a gift to the Sisters of St. Joseph at the parish, who lovingly helped her endure the tragedy. (Photo: Bill Miller)

Bill Gorman, a lifelong parishioner, was a classmate of Victor at St. Agnes Catholic School. He never forgot the sisters’ kindness to his friend’s mother. When the statue disappeared in the 1980s, he spent decades looking for it so that Mrs. Grant, the sisters, and Victor would never be forgotten.

“We found it last summer,” Gorman said. “It had been a long search.”

Victor and Gorman were taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph at St. Agnes Catholic School. 

Gorman also became a teacher. He retired in 2021 from Xaverian High School, where he taught history for 30 years. 

Victor came from one of the three African American families that belonged to St. Agnes Parish in the mid-1960s, Gorman said.

After Victor’s death, the sisters helped Mrs. Grant, by then a single mother, mourn her son. They also helped her enroll in driving lessons and job training.

The statue she bought for the sisters was moved from the outside of the convent on Degraw Street, but no one knew where it went. The convent became offices for St. Vincent Services after the sisters moved out of it. Then it was sold and remodeled last year into condominiums.

When the building became vacant, Gorman and Father Alex Morard, parochial vicar, got permission to go inside to look for the statue.

They found it in a far corner of the basement, but it was damaged with broken hands and other disrepair. Hence, the need for a replacement.

“That just gave me the impetus to say, ‘We have to do something to keep this going,’ ” Gorman said.

(Photo: Courtesy of Bill Gorman)

Fathers Anel and Morard agreed and suggested the new statue become part of the Marian Garden planned for the west lawn of the church facing Hoyt Street. It will include the inscription from the original statue: “In Memory of Victor Grant, 1951-1967.”

But the garden is planned to do even more. Seating will be added so that anyone can go there to pray, rest, and also to reflect on their own departed loved ones. It will be open daily, Father Morard said.

Most of the parishioners on hand Saturday did not know the Grant family. No one knew what became of Mrs. Grant after she moved away years later. 

David Peterson, 17, attended the grand opening with his grandparents, Kathy and Bill Appel. He said he didn’t mind standing in the rain on a Saturday afternoon.

“Even though our family didn’t know the kid directly, we still care,” Peterson said. “It meant a lot to my grandparents, so it means something to me, too. But it all ties back to our church, how close everyone is, and how the church keeps people connected.”

But Deborah Joyce McDougald, who knew Mrs. Grant, recalled how she served as a crossing guard for the school long after her son died. 

“I was very young,” McDougald said. “Victor was 10 years older than me, but we all felt it. We all knew Mrs. Grant lost her only child, and the sisters were there with her every single step of the way. 

“She wanted to give back to people who gave to her during the time she needed it. She was such a good woman, always helping wherever she could. That’s why today is so meaningful.”

Bill Gorman, a lifelong parishioner at St. Agnes, was the driving force behind locating the lost statue, which has been replaced so that Mrs. Grant, the sisters, and Victor would never be forgotten. (Photo: Bill Miller)

One thought on “Mother’s Long-Lost Memorial to Child Revived in Marian Garden at St. Agnes

  1. It shows when people truly care great things can be accomplished. It’s beautiful to see that he was never forgotten and neither was his mom. They were always close in the hearts of those who knew them. And it was so sweet how those who didn’t know them cared to do the right thing.