Phone: 203 742-1450
Fairfield County Catholic Cemeteries of the Diocese of Bridgeport

March 24, 2024

“His spirit is alive in the church and in the community. It’s palpable, and this is a physical remembrance…”
— Dr. Eleanor Sauers

When Father John Baran arrived at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Fairfield on Ash Wednesday 22 years ago, all the signs were there that the parish would be shutting its doors… but then everything changed with the new pastor.

The Labryinth GardenAs Dr. Eleanor Sauers, Parish Life Coordinator, recalled, “He was more positive, he was upbeat. He preached the Gospel with a different tone and tenor … and things started to pop.”

Young people began joining the parish, and those who had left came back. The greatest legacy of Fr. John Baran, who died at 59 on March 24, 2018 after battling muscular dystrophy, was he built up a community nourished by the Word, said Sauers, who was his close friend and later took over the parish leadership.

Many parishioners still feel his presence, especially in The Labyrinth Garden, dedicated in his memory. At the entrance, a bronze plaque simply states: “The Labyrinth Garden — Dedicated to the memory of our beloved Pastor, Rev. John P. Baran 2002-2018.” The garden is on the site of a former convent, and a brass cross that hung on the front porch is now embedded in the stonework at the center of the labyrinth, whose “pavers” are 30 feet wide.

The garden has different “circuits,” where people can walk. Dr. Sauers says the garden attracts people of all ages, including a woman who pushes her husband in a wheelchair, children who play on the benches, and those who want to spend quiet time in meditation and prayer.

A brochure from the parish says: “Walking a labyrinth can be a metaphor for life. Our lives are a journey in which our experiences, our sorrows and joys, our challenges and our decisions influence how we live that journey. Symbolic of this journey, the labyrinth gives us a meditative tool to focus on and encounter the sacred in our evolving lives.”

“His is a legacy that continues,” she says. “His spirit is alive in the church and in the community. It’s palpable, and this is a physical remembrance — a lovely meditative spot even for people who never knew him.”


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