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October 7, 2021

The Power of Reflection at The Covington

“It’s important to nourish the spirit as well as the body.”

— Fr. Rick Byrum


Pondering the miracle and wonders of life is a natural part of the human condition, which Father Rick Byrum, Chaplain at The Covington understands deeply. Involved with the community for more than 16 years, Father Rick offers insight, comfort, and spiritual awareness to all, regardless of faith or denomination. His presence is an integral part of the ECS commitment to the physical, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and social wellness of all residents.

“It was such a pleasure to join in with The Covington’s talented ukulele musicians to celebrate the reopening of the beautiful new koi pond,” said Mayor Pro Tem of Aliso Viejo, Ross Chun. “The combination of music and nature is always pleasing and calming to us all, especially during difficult times.”

The Creative Living philosophy that guides ECS communities is tangible throughout our campus, including one special place that came into being more than a dozen years ago. Like many good ideas at The Covington, this one came from a resident. In 2008, Father Rick was approached about establishing an outdoor space on the property for contemplation. “The resident said we have beautiful grounds here,” recounts Father Rick, “maybe we can have a place for a bench, a place for reflection, a place to sit and have outdoor services even.”

Father Rick got busy. First, he developed a few sketches for an outdoor space. “It had to be a place that could accommodate many diverse needs,” he says. It also required the generosity, support, and collective talents of the local community.

Beautiful koi fish now populate the serene garden at The Covington.

Soon, construction was underway. The walk to the pond follows a 200-foot serpentine path that elicits a connection with nature. The pond itself, both quiet and secluded, is fed by a small creek from a nearby waterfall. The water running over and around the rocks on its way to the pond adds to the ambience that has inspired so many people over the years to come, sit still, and reflect.

As the pond neared completion, it received one more contribution from the local community. “The city inspector came by to give their final approval,” recalls Father Rick. “They took one look at the beautiful setting and said what we needed here was some Koi.” It happened that the inspector had many Koi in their own pond at home and they ended up donating eight colorful fish. “Accepting their gift became part of the blessing of the pond.”

Father Rick

Since then, the pond has become a place where all kinds of celebrations are held. “I have officiated weddings, renewal of vows, celebrated birthdays, and counseled those facing difficult times ahead,” says Father Rick. “I also work closely with those dealing with memory care issues and the walk to the pond often becomes an important, familiar trail which can bring them much comfort.”

Local Aliso Viejo residents have also been able to enjoy the restorative powers of the Koi pond. Those staying at The Covington’s skilled nursing unit, which accommodates people in the community who need temporary assistance as they recover from illness, appreciate the opportunity to convalesce in nature.

Over time, it was not only people who enjoyed the pond. Local wildlife soon made it a place of sanctuary for themselves. Raccoons, herons and even a coyote helped themselves to a fish dinner. “The problem,” says Father Rick, “is that the pond was too shallow and lacked enough rocks and crevices for the Koi to hide if needed. We tried many things to discourage the wildlife but eventually, the fish had to be removed.”

Sergio Mirola, The Covington’s Environmental Service Director, shared details of the thoughtful process taken to restore the pond and surrounding landscape.

Now, with the pond reaching a stage where it needed some repairs, Father Rick saw an opportunity. He led the endeavor to rebuild the pond to be both larger and deeper, making it safe for the Koi to return. “We have also refreshed the foliage, trimmed back some trees and added flowers,” he says.

The recent reopening service of the new pond was a welcome home celebration for the Koi to this special place of healing and contemplation. Led by Father Rick, many people from the local community attended, including Mayor Pro Tem Ross Chun who also kindly sat in and played with The Covington’s ukulele group.

Koi fish have a unique, adaptive trait — their growth is in direct relation to the size of their surroundings. “Bigger the pond, bigger the fish,” say Father Rick. “My belief is that all those who visit this unique environment will also respond positively and maybe find the moment of peace they were seeking.”

Amen, Father Rick.


About Us

Located in beautiful Aliso Viejo, The Covington is part of the ECS family of senior communities that offer unparalleled independent living. Orange County, renowned for its active, vibrant lifestyle is the perfect place to continue your journey of a life well-lived, on your terms. Call us today to learn more.

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