A Delaware County parish has created a garden whose roots – and fruits – are spreading far and wide throughout the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
This spring, St. Cornelius Parish in Chadds Ford parceled off a one-acre plot on its extensive campus to plant tomatoes, beans, eggplant, zucchini and other vegetables. When harvested, the produce will be donated to two area food banks: Martha’s Choice Marketplace, located at archdiocesan Catholic Social Services’ Montgomery County Family Service Center in Norristown, and the Dorothy Day Center, an outreach of St. Agnes Parish in West Chester.
“My aim is to give it all away,” said St. Cornelius pastor Msgr. David Diamond. “I figured since we have 60 acres of land here, let’s see what we can do.”
Parishioners of all ages have rolled up their sleeves to clear land, erect fencing, water, seed and weed, guided by expert advice from third-generation farmer H.G. Haskell III of nearby SIW Vegetables. Haskell also donated a number of plants while designing the irrigation system.
Although it’s early in the growing season, the results so far are promising, said Msgr. Diamond – even though a few folks haven’t quite caught on yet.
“A former parishioner who drove by said she was glad we were finally taking her advice about opening a cemetery,” he quipped.
On the contrary, he said, the garden is providing not only fresh food, but spiritual sustenance that is deepening faith, strengthening community ties and prompting social outreach.
“People have jumped on board and they’re very excited about this,” said Msgr. Diamond. “And the best thing is that these are people I normally only see on Sunday. Now they’re getting involved in another way.”
Part of the project’s momentum is fueled by the parish’s newly created Catholic Relief Services (CRS) chapter, whose members have led the garden effort.
CRS members JoEllen and Steven Muntz were early supporters of the project, with Steven removing strips of grass to create planting rows and JoEllen drawing on her skills as a gardening hobbyist.
“This is our first year, so we’re taking baby steps,” she said, adding that as volunteers have pitched in, “someone always knows something or someone” to tackle various aspects of the project.
A parishioner connected the group to Haskell, while another was able to provide low-cost printing for the garden’s inspirational signage, which features quotes from St. Francis of Assisi and an image of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, patron of ecologists.
Fellow gardener Doug Kitson said the initiative has also united young and old.
“Any age can get out here,” he said. “You can bring your seven-year-old child to pick tomatoes and put them in a basket, or Mom or Dad can take up shovels and hoes as needed. It’s that simple.”
St. Cornelius preschoolers have literally taken “field trips” to the garden, said Msgr. Diamond, and children from the parish religious education program will also assist with the project during the summer months.
The garden is a form of catechesis, said Steven Muntz.
“Msgr. Diamond has said that we’re Catholics and we like symbols, and this is really a symbol of what we’re about,” he said. “We’re taking the gift we have, planting and growing.”
And ultimately sharing the harvest of many hands, said Msgr. Diamond.
“It’s as St. Benedict said: ‘Ora et labora (prayer and work),” he said. “This is ora, this is labora. We’re not all Benedictines, but it helps others.”
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
PREVIOUS: Pro-life rally draws hundreds amid ‘staggering’ abortion statistics
NEXT: Seniors throw sweet send-off for beloved kitchen manager
Share this story