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Who was John Stokes Jr.?

By Stephanie Shreffler and Olivia Gillingham

Born October 21, 1920 in Pennsylvania, John S. Stokes Jr. was raised a Quaker until his later conversion to Catholicism. In 1942, Stokes earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Lehigh University and began working at Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati. Having grown up a Quaker, he registered as a conscientious objector during World War II, and was sent first to a work camp run by Quakers, and next to a camp run by the federal government.

In 1946, Stokes experienced what he called a lightning bolt conversion to Catholicism in his family’s garden. The following year he moved to Philadelphia and married Helen Patricia Schriever, with whom he had five children. Stokes was active within his local parish, Our Mother of Consolation in Philadelphia, and shared his Catholic faith with his children, sometimes using Mary Gardens to teach his daughter Anne about the Blessed Virgin Mary and Catholicism. In 1951, after reading about the Mary Garden at St. Joseph’s Parish in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, he co-founded Mary’s Gardens with Edward McTague to promote the creation of Mary Gardens in homes, parishes, and other institutions. Stokes later married Marion Metelits, whom he met while serving as the director of the Wellsprings Ecumenical Center in Philadelphia. He was active in social justice and civil rights movements, and appeared many times on Input, a panel discussion program on Philadelphia television that addressed a variety of social justice issues. John Stokes passed away on November 14, 2007. The garden in Roesch Library is a celebration of one of his greatest passions and labors of love for Mary.

Learn more about John Stokes and the history of the Mary’s Gardens Movement by visiting the exhibit on the second floor of Roesch Library!

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