Does the month of June still conjure up thoughts of those April showers that produced the May flowers for June brides? Parishioners of La Honda's local Catholic church, Our Lady of Refuge, think so. Three weddings and a quinceñera have been booked between June and September of this year. Our rainy spring didn't have a lot to do with it, though. It's been a group effort. Parishioners have been working at the church every Thursday since the first of the year to polish the inside of the chruch and plan, prune and plant in order to prepare the church grounds.
Over the last several years Our Lady of Refuge has required a new roof, a coat of stain on the redwood exterior and a ramp for handicap access. But fund raising for improvements has always been a problem for such a small congregation in a small community.
Church members thought that the wooded yet sunny rural location might be attractive to Catholics from outside the parish who were looking for an intimate setting for their wedding ceremony. So they placed an ad in the wedding edition of the archdiocese newspaper, Catholic San Francisco. There's usually a donation involved in using the church for a wedding, so the community is hoping that their hard work and the sharing of their beautiful location will pay off.
The Thursday work days were organized by Joel and Angela Mansfield, who have shown up faithfully every week, rain or shine. There's always work to do, inside or outside. Members of the church community drop in and work, even if it's only for a short while. Sometimes weeds get pulled or areas are tidied up during the week and when asked, no one knows who did it. (Thanks, whoever you are!)
Shella Bordi is planning the landscaping, sometimes working with what is already there and carefully adding drought tolerant and deer resistant plants to new areas. The beds flanking the entrance steps have been completely replanted and are already adding color to the entrance with blooms of lavender, California poppies, white and purple osteospermum and golden feverfew. The rose garden is being transformed into a meditation garden with the addition of new roses and other flowers as well as a bench. When the vines climbing the fence fill in, the garden area will also provide a backdrop for wedding pictures.
Inside, the church could use a new floor (it dates back to when the church was built in the 1950s) but many coats of polish have made it shine. The woodwork is glowing and the altar rail has been refinished.
The church has no social hall but Joel Mansfield has compiled a wedding brochure that includes resources for local reception venues and tent and dance floor rentals for an on-site reception.
It's been a labor of love and a community effort that will continue in order to maintain the beauty of our local church and its grounds. Our Lady of Refuge, off the main roads, tucked away in the woods, is really a hidden gem.
Our Lady of Refuge is a mission church of the parish of Our Lady of the Pillar in Half Moon Bay. For information about weddings at Our Lady of Refuge please see the church website: http://ourladyofrefuge-lahonda.org/Weddings/