John S. Stokes and His Gift

– Father Johann G. Roten, S.M.

John S. Stokes (1920-2007) was a civil engineer with the mind of a Renaissance man and the soul of a mystic. He was able to read the things of nature with the eyes of faith, and to explore the language of Revelation with the keen sense of a twentieth century agnostic. He was not a scholar of the proverbial ivory tower, but a marcher for social justice and civil rights. A quaker in his youth, he found as an adult a spiritual home in Catholicism, but ecumenism and interfaith activities were written in big letters over his mature years. Above all, Stokes was the living proof that an engineer and social activist could very well be a most inspired and informed devotee of Mary.

It was both an honor and joy for me to make the acquaintance of this man. From the exchange of phone calls and emails about Latin vocabulary and Marian symbolisms of the Middle Ages to the exchange of articles and manuscripts, I was invited to discover Stokes' secret garden of Mary's flowers, which by the mid-nineties had long flowered into a national movement with a mail order service for seeds to grow a Mary garden and a website rich with information on knowledge about the past and practical experiences of the recent present. In all of his endeavors as Mary's gardener, Stokes was never only the engineer and aficionado of art and beauty. A Mary garden had to be a "mystical garden" leading the soul to the "garden of paradise," the true Mary garden. What Stokes wanted were "mystics with hands" – the name of one of his manuscripts.

The gift of Stokes' extensive and varied collection to the Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute in 2007 did not come as a surprise. Stokes had been looking for a home, not a repository, for his many treasures. He gave us the means not only to store them, but to keep them alive – the purpose of all and any Mary garden. John Stokes' family, especially his second wife Marion (the famous television news collector and civil rights activist at the side of her husband John) and son Michael have been very supportive of the project, financially and otherwise. John S. Stokes' rich legacy covers the second half of the last century. It is an important witness of this country's Marian and Catholic history. 


The John Stokes and Mary's Garden collection was transferred to the Marian Library in May 2013. In addition to his archives, manuscripts, artwork, and personal library, John S. Stokes also donated his extensive website. It was transferred to the Marian Library in 2010.  

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