The Garden Ministry

We commit ourselves... To honor the beauty of creation as life giving for the human spirit, allowing ourselves to be filled with awe and reverence before the wonders of creation.

organic-gardenConsistent with reverence for the Earth is allowing it to remain in its pristine state without pesticides and pollutants. We work a natural garden in keeping with our belief that all of God’s creation are sacred and should be treated with respect and care.  We do this as a model of ways to counter the industrial agricultural industry.

The Garden Mission

We engage in diversified gardening as a model of sound, natural gardening, planting a variety of crops, rotating them regularly, and using the spent plants, weeds, grass and leaves (all rich in nutrients) to fertilize the soil.  Nothing is wasted.  Our natural garden is a good example of sustainability. As a bonus, diversified gardening attracts very few harmful insects and those that do come are quickly repelled by the beneficial insects that are attracted to our flowers.  Gardening in this manner keeps ever before our eyes the wonders of God’s creation: the good relationships and cooperation between the plants and animal life; the diverse dying and rising within a vegetable garden, and the beauty of the plants, flowers and trees.

View the video about our Organic Garden: We Are the Dust of the Earth

The Garden Grows

Our garden area has expanded over the years with the addition of chickens, rabbits, and goats.  The expansion continued with the addition of a Community Garden. We have invited interested people to use some of our space to grow their own vegetables.

The Garden Ministry not only seeks to model organic agricultural principles but also to teach children their connection with earth and to foster a community spirit among adults.

Courses for children such as Hands on Earth Play (ages 4-7), Soil, Worms and Compost ( upper grades), My Grown-Up and Me in the Big Outdoors, and other educational experiences are offered regularly.

Throughout the year rituals and prayer at the times of the equinoxes and solstices gather sisters, friends and neighbors in prayer to celebrate the changing seasons.

The Annual Potluck Picnic gathers neighbors and friends in an outdoor community celebration at the end of the growing season.

This year the building of the new brick oven enabled the initiation of Warm Winter Wednesdays to which all were invited to share freshly baked pizza and pita bread no matter how cold or rainy the weather.

In addition to the vegetables from the organic garden, the chickens provide fresh eggs and the bees give their honey.

Participating in creating irrigation systems, making music, learning about compost, cooking eggs, veggies and wheat are activities that make up just another week at the garden.


Spirituality of Bread Making

The Garden Ministry held its first Spirituality of Bread-Making Retreat with ten of our garden volunteers and friends.  Having had the experience of growing, harvesting, threshing, winnowing, grinding and baking our own wheat, we began by recognizing our profound connection with soil, water, sun, and Earth herself.  As we continued through the process of making bread, we reflected on each step and pondered our connections to seed savers, farmers, bakers and eaters across time and space.  We got our hands involved and kneaded the diverse ingredients into one beautiful ball of dough we prayed that “all may be one.”  We practiced the art of rest as we waited for the dough to rise, and we engaged in meaningful conversation as it rose a second time and baked.  We ended our day together by sharing Eucharist, “fruit of the earth and work of human hands.”  It did become for us the bread of life.

Thoughts From The Garden

t began in the kitchen in the Honey House on Wednesday afternoon. Jim came in as Mary Lou and I were finishing up some odds and ends and asked how we’d feel about hosting a farm-to-table lunch the next day for the farmers and WWOOF volunteers (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) who were working on the grounds. We thought it sounded like a fine idea, and vegetables began arriving from the different farms shortly after. The table was covered with the vibrant colors of tomatoes, cucumbers, husk cherries, watermelon, onions, squash, eggplant, potatoes and herbs, and the scent of the freshly harvested goodies filled the room.

The next day, Chef Eric arrived early in the morning to prepare the feast. He spread out in the small Honey House kitchen and began his artwork. Folks came throughout the morning to help wash and prepare the veggies, set out tables and chairs, and even provide stunning freshly cut flower bouquets for the table.

Before we knew it, our lunch was ready, and we gathered outside to enjoy the food and company realizing that we were literally eating the work of all of our hands. Chef Eric described his hours of preparation and cooking as playtime because of the uniqueness of the flavors so freshly harvested.

As I sat at the table, I felt nourished and nurtured by the wholesome food and conversation. It was yet another model of the way our world and communities can, and often do, look – giving as gift what we’ve been given and receiving with gratitude. As I sat, I also felt my baby’s movements within me and was reminded that though she will be born into a world in the midst of climate crisis, family separation, nuclear armament, and heaps of violence and disrespect, she will also be born into this world in which we can simply share a meal prepared with the food we all worked hard to grow in an atmosphere of sharing and concern for one another and the planet of which we are part.

The importance of the kitchen also came alive. In the year we’ve had our simple Honey House kitchen, we’ve been able to gather in ways that were previously impossible. We’ve baked and broken bread together as part of our Spirituality of Breadmaking Retreat. We’ve preserved and cooked food from our gardens. We prepared all of our meals with our Sacred Heart Academy students who participated in our week-long service retreat. We’ve baked, broiled, sautéed, and steamed for a variety of gatherings and events. Lunchtime frequently finds our volunteers, co-ministers and neighbors gathered around the kitchen table for some sustenance and conversation. And now, we were hosting an impromptu farm-to-table lunch.

I am reminded of our first Sisters of St. Joseph in LePuy, France who would gather in the kitchen for prayer and conversation after their long days of enkindling God’s love throughout the city as they tended to their dear neighbors. The kitchen was the place in which they were nourished and sustained in body, mind and spirit.

I can’t help but think that we have our own little kitchen in our own LePuy. Our own place of gathering, prayer and conversation where we come for nourishment and sustenance for our bodies, minds and spirits. We tend to the dear neighbor in the form of chicken, honeybee, child and tree, and we come together as community around our kitchen table. We give as gift what we’ve been given and receive with gratitude. As I write these words, I feel my baby kicking in my belly, and a tear of humble thanks rolls down my cheek. I bow down in gratitude that my little one will belong to this kitchen, and I make a silent promise to tend to the wider, weeping world of which we are all part.

It began in the kitchen when Jim walked in. I wonder who will walk in next.

As local as this dinner happened to be, I found myself offering thanks across time and space. Who, I wondered, had grown the food that we feed our chickens? Who saved the seeds for the plants that we grow? Who saved the seeds generations ago and who continued the tradition until a smattering reached our garden this winter? As this meal was digested in my body, my physical connection to life near and far, past, present and future, became ever more tangible.

As I rejoiced in the life and labor that prepared my food, I thought of all those whose food comes from a box or a can. I felt sad for the people whose only options for dinner tonight are food products filled with high fructose corn syrup or genetically modified soy, and I grieved for the ones who will have no food for their meal or to feed their children. As I sat in safety, I remembered those fleeing violence or being victimized. As I enjoyed the solitude, I thought of those who are lonely or alone. And so, I prayed. As I enflesh the food I am given, may I also enflesh the prayers on my lips. May the food I eat be transformed into a life that becomes food for others.

At the Passover Seder each year, the youngest one asks the question, “How is this night different from all other nights?” The answer has to do with the food, how we eat it, and the way we remember God at work in our history and our present. We once were slaves, but now are free. At the Last Supper, I imagine the youngest asked that traditional question, “How is this night different from all other nights?” When Jesus broke the bread and shared the wine, a new glimpse of understanding emerged as history shifted again. He entreated us – every time you do this – eat, drink, re-member. The words quietly spoken by the celebrant at mass before the bread and wine is placed on the alter rose up within me as I communed with hands and harvest, plants and pollinators, soil and Spirit. “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.” And my response, “Blessed be God forever,” as I ate.

How different was this night from all other nights! And yet, all I did was eat dinner.

Heather Ganz Bolkas