Spirit guides farming family to create shrine - Catholic Courier
The spiritual landscape at the farm of Sharyon and Arnold Dueppengiesser started with the erection of a wood cross in 2000. The Dueppengiessers' son, Peter, then suggested they construct a Stations of the Cross, which can be seen in the background. The spiritual landscape at the farm of Sharyon and Arnold Dueppengiesser started with the erection of a wood cross in 2000. The Dueppengiessers' son, Peter, then suggested they construct a Stations of the Cross, which can be seen in the background.

Spirit guides farming family to create shrine

PERRY — Those famous, cryptic words "If you build it, he will come" aren’t all fiction to Sharyon Dueppengiesser.

While attending Mass in 1999 at her home church, St. Mary in Geneseo, "Father (William) Gordinier was doing his homily and all of a sudden, I knew he was talking but I could not hear him anymore," she recalled. "Something in my mind kept telling me, ‘You have to build a cross, you have to build a cross.’"

Her experience eerily resembled the movie "Field of Dreams," when a voice instructs a young Iowa farmer to create a baseball field on his land. As it so happens, Dueppengiesser’s family oversees a 2,000-acre dairy farm.

She sensed that the cross was supposed to go somewhere near their back yard — but since that area was largely undeveloped, her husband, Arnold, regarded her vision as simply a passing fancy.

"What I thought was, ‘Well that’s going to go away,’" he remarked. "But she came back with it and back with it, and I thought if she feels that strongly about it I think it might be a nice thing to do."

One summer day when they were working in the yard, Arnold abruptly revealed that he had acquired his wife’s fervor as well.

"He said, ‘I know where the cross is going.’ He showed me and I said, ‘That’s perfect,’" Sharyon recalled.

In 2000, the cross went up. From there, it was the Dueppengiessers’ son, Peter, who suggested they construct a Stations of the Cross in their yard — and a set of 14 bronze stations were erected and dedicated in the summer of 2001. By that point, Arnold knew that his sprawling farm, which has been in the family since 1969, was beginning to serve a purpose other than just providing milk from its 1,100 cows.

"I could feel within myself there was a mission to this whole thing. I couldn’t see where it was going, no clue — but there was more to it than just the cross," Arnold said.

He and his family continued to clear out trees and brush and dug out a pond. With Sharyon coordinating much of the expansion, a nine-acre parcel of land behind their house has distinctly separated itself in recent years from the typical rural scenery of northeast Wyoming County.

For many passers-by, the first hint of hallowed ground is a large, colorful rock bearing the words "Reflection Pond" at the entrance of a small roadway next to the Dueppengiessers’ house at 7825 Butler Road. A short drive down that roadway brings visitors to the pond, near which is a statue of Mary bearing the inscription "For with God, all things are possible — Mark 10:27." Adjacent to the statue are 60 small bushes forming a replica of the rosary — green dwarf boxwoods for the Hail Marys and small burgundy hedges for the Our Fathers — with a cross at the base.

Heading back toward the house, a footbridge over a babbling brook leads to a 42-step wood-and-brick stairway that brings visitors to the Stations of the Cross. The setting offers a unique experience for those who wish to recall Jesus’ passion on Good Friday or any other time of the year.

The Dueppengiessers are more than happy for people to experience their homemade shrine, dubbed "Tranquil Reflections." It has slowly gained attention and now hosts events with up to 200 people such as an annual Mass and potluck dinner in August, weddings, picnics and graduation parties. The Dueppengiessers only charge for electricity, although they also accept free-will donations.

Visitors have ranged from a Divine Mercy group out of Buffalo, to cheerleaders from Perry, to students from SUNY Geneseo who are accompanied by Mike Sauter, pastoral administrator of St. Luke the Evangelist, a five-church parish in Livingston County that includes St. Mary.

"We’re very inclusive. You don’t have to be Catholic, be from St. Mary’s. You just have to come," Arnold said, while Sharyon added that a Protestant minister performing a wedding on the grounds "said it was close to what he felt Eden was."

The stairway and roadway along with a gazebo, fountain and benches have been added over the years, and a retreat house is in the works as well. Although Sharyon said Tranquil Reflections reaches its aesthetic pinnacle in warm weather, the property is open all year long — for scheduled events and also people who drop in unannounced.

"People come all the time and meditate, especially in the summertime," she said.

Arnold, for one, feels he has experienced tremendous spiritual growth by having the shrine on his property.

"I see the beauty of God every single day. It just keeps me spiritually alive," he said.

Five of Sharyon and Arnold’s nine children live nearby; they and the couple’s grandchildren help with the landscaping of Tranquil Reflections. They also pray there as a unit on Sunday afternoons for special intentions that have been forwarded to them.

Several more folks have made key contributions to the grounds’ expansion, such as the man who gave them a concrete statue and granite cross for the rosary garden; the woman who donated a statue of the Infant of Prague that rests on a stairway landing; the neighbor who built the creek bridge; and the Mennonites from around the corner who constructed wooden posts for the Stations of the Cross.

Others have chimed in with ideas that were put into action: a man attending a picnic insisted that something honoring Mary was needed to complement the outdoor stations; Father Patrick Connor, former pastor of St. Luke, gave suggestions in 2006 as to what the rosary garden should look like; and Father Bernard Dan, current sacramental minister at St. Luke, suggested planting 12 arborvitae trees that now encircle the rosary — one tree for each apostle.

All in all, Sharyon is certain that the voice speaking to these contributors is the same one she sensed at Mass several years ago when she first thought to build a cross.

"Everyone, I think, has been touched by the Holy Spirit. We’re his instruments to promote God," she stated.

Two years ago a St. Luke parishioner, Jim West, presented the Dueppengiessers with a book containing photos of Tranquil Reflections. One picture showed a line of cars on the roadway at Reflection Pond as a nod to the final scene of "Field of Dreams," when vehicles lined up to visit the new baseball field.

"It brought us to tears," Sharyon acknowledged, adding how touching it is that she "built it," so to speak, and "they have come."

"We say all the time, we are so happy when we see people sitting on the bench saying a little prayer," she said. "It’s just a wonderful feeling that people are using it."

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