Durango resident Nadine Drake’s determination to achieve the coveted American Heritage Girls Stars and Stripes Award means that Durango now has its first walking rosary.
A rosary is a religious exercise in which prayers are recited and counted on a string of beads or knotted cord. In Drake’s walking rosary, visitors walk through five sets of 10 steppingstones that encourage and guide prayer.
“Really anyone can go up there and use it. My goal of putting it up there was to enjoy the space but also reflect on loved ones who have died and grow closer to Jesus,” Drake said.
The walking rosary fulfills the substantial service project portion of the Stars and Stripes Award for American Heritage Girls. To earn the award, girls must plan, lead and implement a 100-hour project on something to be left behind for the community.
In addition to the service project, award candidates must have at least 16 badges, nine of which are core requirements. Badges signify achievement in skills deemed necessary for a smooth transition into adulthood and include helping one’s family, home care and repair, money management, learning about the government, learning about the flag and the history of the United States, emergency preparedness and outdoor skills.
“I earned all of those badges, I think, like three years ago,” Drake said. “I’ve continued to grow and earn more badges. I think I have about 55 by now.”
For her service project, Drake said she was considering a couple different ideas, but ultimately landed on building a walking rosary because she saw a need for it in Durango.
“I feel like Durango has a pretty big Catholic community, but there aren’t a lot of Catholic things. And we don’t have a set prayer walk for anyone,” Drake said. “That was something that was kind of needed for the community. Especially at Greenmount Cemetery for people who have just lost somebody and are going up there for the funeral. Even people who know people who have been buried up there – I wanted to make something that they could go up and use to reflect on the loss of their loved ones and pray to them.”
Drake was able to recruit about 60 volunteers from her church and American Heritage Girls communities to help. Drake led the crew, which finished the walking rosary on June 4. For Drake, the most challenging part was laying the initial stones for the cross.
“It was a learning curve,” she said.
But as she starting to catch on, Drake said leading the 60 volunteers was easy. She taught her first volunteers to lay the stones, dig holes and fill in the gravel. As more showed up, Drake assigned new arrivals with volunteers who already learned the steps from her.
“Everyone listened pretty well. They were all pretty quick learners,” she said.
Girls pursuing the award must demonstrate leadership, project management, communication skills, time management and organization. Candidates will gain firsthand understanding of the “servant’s heart” required to lead with integrity and humility. This prepares girls for responsibility as they transition to adulthood, according to the American Heritage Girls’ website.
American Heritage Girls is a national Christ-centered character and leadership development program for girls 5 to 18 years old. Their mission is to building the integrity of women through service to God, family, community and country.
Drake has been an American Heritage Girl at the chapter based in Bayfield since age 9, and says she has always looked forward to earning the Stars and Stripes Award.
The walking rosary is in plot 20 of Greenmount Cemetery, 900 Cemetery Road.