Vocation in Avocation: Gardening
By AJ Keith, Communications intern
Flowers have been a symbol that speaks to the bounty and beauty of God’s creation throughout the ages, but a few of the Sisters of Charity give back to nature through their love of gardening. Sisters Dorothy William Englert and Maureen Heverin are just a few members of the Congregation that take part in the pastime that relaxes their minds and nswers their call to stewardship of creation.
Dorothy began gardening when she was about 10 years old during the Second World War. In order to help with the war effort, she helped her family plant various vegetables to send overseas to the military defending the nation. After the war had ended, S. Dorothy continued to garden with the rest of her family because she discovered her love for the Earth and the hobby. One of her favorite flowers that she plants is zinnias. “I like how simple the zinnias are to plant,” she says, “The seeds are easy to harvest and replant.”
Born to Irish parents, S. Maureen has always enjoyed a rural atmosphere due to her parents finding solace in an agricultural setting. Because this was an important aspect of their lives, it quickly became an important part of hers. Though they tended to plant “anything that blooms,” some of her favorite flowers to help her parents plant were geraniums and zinnias because of their multi-colored petals and the vibrancy that they brought to the garden. To this day, these flowers remain her favorites, but she has branched out to new favorites like pansies which decorate her current place of residence, Santa Maria Compound near Mount St. Joseph.
To this day, S. Dorothy continues to garden and was thrilled to learn that there was an opportunity to do so near her place of residence. While there is no demand for produce overseas any longer, she still focuses on growing vegetables for her friends and family for a fresh dining experience. Her current garden consists of asparagus, kale and tomatoes. Weather permitting, S. Dorothy tries to visit her garden daily to keep the ground loose and plants watered. “I love to cook with the vegetables and use my mother’s old recipes for myself and others,” S. Dorothy says.
Maureen shares a garden with her housemates at the Santa Maria Compound where they grow vegetables, fruits and flowers. She states that the activity can be a private pastime, but can also be a communal bonding time. Because there is such a variety of different plants and produce, everyone in the house has their unique expertise as well as their own preferences for the garden. As such, everyone has been assigned their own role in an unspoken but structured system. “We all like how practical it is to eat fresh foods, so everyone in our home pitches in,” S. Maureen says.
From a young age, S. Maureen has been amazed at the growth from seed to shrub or squash, but it has also been an exercise of seeing God in all things. Yielding produce that gives life, S. Maureen states that her garden clears her mind and relaxes her while remaining a practical hobby as well. S. Maureen refers to her garden as an “oasis” for her and remains a reflective space for her to witness the miracle of watching a seed grow into an abundance for all to cherish. The two Sisters agree that gardening goes hand-in-hand with stewardship of the Earth because they are preserving life and His creation. “Seeing how things change and grow is a nice analogy for life,” S. Maureen says. “If I want to experience God, all I have to do is walk out of that door.”
The Earth provides an abundance of resources, both practical and pretty, and these Sisters enjoy all of the benefits that stem from their gardening hobby. They both plan to continue their hobby to share the fruits and vegetables of their labor with others and display the wonders of God’s creation with all who happen to cross their gardens.