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DEDHAM -- When Vincenzo Petruzziello, 16, reached out to his family's parish to ask if there was something he could do for his Eagle Scout project, St. Mary of the Assumption Parish pastor, Father Wayne Belschner, had a suggestion: the installation of a crucifixion scene that had been donated to the parish.
The scene would be installed in an undeveloped area on one side of the rectory, where benches had been installed a year earlier. Placing the figures there would provide a focus for reflection, as people sat in the quiet spot.
"I thought it was a really cool idea, and I was really excited to be able to get it done," Petruzziello said, speaking to The Pilot on Dec. 18.
After choosing his project, he wrote out a plan detailing the time, materials, and people that would be needed to complete it, and how it would benefit the community. According to the project requirements, it had to be something with permanent value, and it had to involve leading other scouts.
Petruzziello carried out his project in November, working after school with a handful of other people for almost a week. Petruzziello said it was difficult for other scouts to participate, since many of them had activities after school. Nevertheless, he received help from two other scouts and a few troop parents. They cleared out the bushes and trees in the designated area and had a contractor pour the concrete for the statues.
"It really made me happy to see it come together," Petruzziello said.
His mother, Sandie Petruzziello, said she was "excited for him that he was able to find a project that was meaningful and will have a meaningful impact going forward."
Because they live in Dedham and attend St. Mary of the Assumption Church, she said, "it's something that we will enjoy for many, many years to come."
The parish has carried out similar improvement projects on the grounds over the past year, including a Marian grotto and a Sacred Heart statue. This was largely made possible by the efforts of four seminarians who stayed at the parish while St. John's Seminary was closed during the coronavirus pandemic. Teenagers from the parish's Life Teen program and other members of the parish also volunteered their help.
"They really transformed this back area of the church. I've heard people come up and say it's like a retreat center now," Father Belschner said.
Every day, he said, people can be found praying the rosary in the Marian grotto, kneeling before the Sacred Heart statue, or contemplating the crucifixion.
"It's really fostered an atmosphere of prayer," Father Belschner said.
Petruzziello said the area with the benches and crucifixion scene is good to have during the pandemic, when people may not be comfortable coming inside the church.
"Now they have some nice places outside for people to come and reflect or pray," he said.