Barry McNamara  |  Published June 25, 2021

Labyrinth Groundbreaking

Gift from Jon Dahl ’75 and wife, Barbara, will create ‘thin place’ on campus ‘where the divine and human come together.’

SACRED SPACE: Monmouth graduate Jon Dahl '75 breaks ground on the future site of a labyrinth.... SACRED SPACE: Monmouth graduate Jon Dahl '75 breaks ground on the future site of a labyrinth. Looking on are his wife, Barbara (in yellow), Monmouth Associate Chaplain the Rev. Jessica Hawkinson (in center) and participants in the College's Lux Summer Theological Institute for Youth.MONMOUTH, Ill. – Members of the Monmouth College community gathered Friday afternoon to break ground on a labyrinth that will “nourih our campus’s spiritual life.”

A sacred space made possible by a gift from 1975 Monmouth graduate Jon Dahl and his wife, Barbara, of Indianapolis, the labyrinth will be located just north of the College’s Fleming Plaza, in an open space behind Wallace Hall and Poling Hall. It is expected to be completed during the fall semester.

A labyrinth is a meandering, often unicursal, path that has a single way that leads to a center. Monmouth’s labyrinth will have what is known as an 11-circuit design, modeled after the one at the Chartres Cathedral in France, which dates to the early 13th century. It will be made of contrasting red and black brick pavers.

“A labyrinth is a sacred path with no wrong turns, with a goal of finding your way,” said Monmouth Associate Chaplain the Rev. Jessica Hawkinson in her remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“This labyrinth will give the entire campus community an important space that will help nourish our campus’s spiritual life,” said Co-Dean of Student Life Karen Ogorzalek.

WORDS OF INTENTION: With his wife Barbara looking on, Jon Dahl displays some words of inten... WORDS OF INTENTION: With his wife Barbara looking on, Jon Dahl displays some "words of intention" for the College's new labyrinth space.In his remarks, Jon Dahl referenced “thin places” – places of energy where the veil between this world and the eternal world is thin or, as Dahl said, “where the divine and human come together.”

Barbara Dahl said she hopes the labyrinth will be a place of “self-discovery, where you find out who you are – a place to be quiet and meditative.”

Hawkinson listed several goals for the labyrinth, saying that it could be a place of, among other things, “discernment, contemplation, way-finding and reconciliation.”

Kolby Carnes ’22 of Bethalto, Illinois, talked about how the pandemic has made the past year taxing on students and the rest of the campus community.

“We’ve experienced loss, grief and constant turmoil,” he said. “We are greatly in need of guidance. That’s what we hope this labyrinth will provide. We pray for guidance.”

Among the audience members at the ceremony were 20 participants in the College’s Lux Summer Theological Institute for Youth. They participated in the final part of the ceremony, when “words of intention” were written on small stones that will be placed on the site.

“We’ve experienced loss, grief and constant turmoil. We are greatly in need of guidance. That’s what we hope this labyrinth will provide. We pray for guidance.” Kolby Carnes

In announcing the gift last December, Jon said, “We have enjoyed the labyrinth experience, and we want to share it with the Monmouth community, as a spiritual and meditative outlet.”

Barbara said the book Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice, by Lauren Artress led to a rise in the construction of labyrinths.

“Labyrinths know no faith tradition,” she said. “They’re not connected to – or exclusive to – any particular faith. As you enter, you’re letting go of issues in your life, of baggage, and you’re open to receiving – maybe God, maybe energy. On the way out, you begin to think of how you’ll incorporate what you’ve received into your life, and you’re picking up the pieces you left behind, but with a new perspective.”

She said the labyrinth experience varies from person to person, and even within a single person’s visits.

“Many people might say, ‘So what?’” to the labyrinth experience, she said. “But the experience is different every time. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. You’re taking in problems to meditate upon, or maybe grieving losses – all kinds of things. It’s an opportunity for an individual to work out whatever is going on in their life.”

A speech communication arts major at Monmouth, Jon spent most of his career with State Farm in Property & Casualty Underwriting Operations. His father had worked for State Farm in Des Plaines, Illinois, but Jon worked mostly in Bloomington, Illinois. He and Barbara moved to Indianapolis in 2010.

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