More than 100 members braved Sunday’s winter chill to celebrate the final event of St. Mark Catholic Church parish’s 150th anniversary with an outdoor dedication of a newly-installed prayer garden.

The Marian Prayer and Memorial Garden, located on Jerome Avenue between Ocean Avenue and East 19th Street, replaces a decades old magnolia tree adjacent to the church. With a hand-etched granite memorial depicting Mother Mary and a baby Jesus Christ in front of the iconic St. Mark steeple, as well as several smaller memorials, the garden provides congregants an outdoor place to reflect and pray.

“This is a special project … that really is the culmination of our anniversary year and marks the last official service of Father Grimaldi,” noted George Donnelly, the business manager for St. Mark.

After 12 years of service, Grimaldi will soon leave the community to serve as a vicor to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, where he’ll work closely with the bishop.

The 150th anniversary was celebrated throughout 2011 with historical walks, in-church exhibits and special events – as well as by a massive fundraising effort to make major restorations throughout the church.

Donnelly said that the unveiling of the monument not only capped the anniversary year, but also was the last important project to be completed with the $916,000 the church raised – a handsome sum that exceeded the congregation’s goal of $750,000.

With those funds, interior and exterior repairs were completed to the bell tower, and the scaffolding will soon be removed. It also allowed for sidewalk repairs around the institution and the renovation of several of the church entrances.

“Only with the help of many of our practitioners we were able to pull this off,” Donnelly said.

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