Mary Hogan visits an oasis of peace, calm and tranquility

Raphael’s Healing Garden in the Church grounds at Oylegate, Co. Wexford is an oasis of peace, calm, tranquility and, above all, healing.

This magnificent, ivy-covered walled garden, neglected and derelict for years, overgrown with brambles and weeds, is now alive with lush shrubbery, roses and flowers.

A water-fall, a small river, and a bridge enhance the feeling of serenity experienced there.

The central message of the sculptures erected there conveys the necessity of embracing and accepting the wide variety of challenges which confront us all as we journey through life, instead of fighting and struggling against them.

It is only through this process that we are healed – certainly mentally, although countless people have attested to physical healing.

The three sculptors at the Garden – by local artist Ciarán O’Brien – show Tobias, son of Topit, from the Old Testament. Travelling on a long journey to seek healing for his blind father, Tobias is, unknowingly, accompanied by the Archangel Raphael. When he stopped to bathe his feet at the river Tigris, an enormous fish attacked and tried to devour him.

He was frantically fighting off the fish when the Archangel Raphael actually appeared. He instructed Tobias to grasp the fish, which was huge.

This statue of Tobias, who is sitting down, holding the massive fish – much bigger than he – represents that the dreadful occurrences in life which engulf us have got to be grasped and accepted. The third sculpture is of Tobias’s little dog, who ‘insists’ on following both Tobias and Raphael.

This expresses both the bad and the good experiences which follow us in life and the traits which we dislike both in ourselves and others – darkness and light.

There is a sheltered shrine where one may light candles to Raphael. On the stone walls are framed explanations of this highly-symbolic garden.

Small bottles of The Archangel Raphael’s Healing Oil may be purchased.

Wooden benches provide rest for prayer and reflection and the enfolding sense of peace is tangible. In the wake of the Ferns Report, Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin, Eamonn Walsh, whilst acting Bishop of Ferns, discussed with Fr. Jim Cogley, P. P. of Oylgate, the necessity of creating a symbolic place of healing and reconciliation. Fr. Cogley had previously initiated the development of the Remembrance Garden in Kilmore Quay and the World War II Bombing Memorial in Campile, Co. Wexford.

He willingly took Bishop Walsh’s suggestion on board and instigated the Healing Garden, supported by the community of Oylegate/Glenbrien parish.

When Bishop Walsh formally opened the Healing Garden in 2012, he said that we “live in a world of great noise but if we listen only to the noise outside and not the voice within, there’s a piece missing.” Separate from the Healing Garden, and within the Church grounds, there is a poignant Memorial to all our babies who have died – whether through miscarriage, still-birth, abortion and those who died in infancy. Bog-oak carvings, again highly symbolic, feature throughout both Gardens.

Fr. Jim Cogley and the people of Oylegate/Glenbrien are to be applauded for bringing Bishop Walsh’s vision to fruition and for providing us with a precious, sacred space in the world in which we live.