Today, Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (CSS) along with Saint Charles Borromeo Parish in Bensalem (Bucks County), and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) welcomed community partners and supporters at a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new 10,000-square-foot community garden at the Our Lady of Fatima Worship Site.
Most Reverend Edward M. Deliman, Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia, blessed 44 garden plots that will provide local families the opportunity to grow fresh food while adding greenery to a central gathering space for the community.
CSS board member Mrs. Jacki Delaney; Mr. James Amato, Secretary for Catholic Human Services; and Mr. Matt Rader, President of PHS were all in attendance.
Matt Rader, PHS President said, “Community gardens are vibrant, dynamic spaces that provide significant impacts on health, increase access to fresh food, and build deeper connections between neighbors. We were honored to work closely with the families of Saint Charles Borromeo Parish at Our Lady of Fatima grounds to create a garden that best serves their needs while bringing the powerful benefits of gardening to the entire community. This partnership with Catholic Social Services is an inspiring example of PHS’s work to garden for the greater good, and we look forward to future opportunities for collaboration.”
The community garden is the latest asset to the Our Lady of Fatima Worship Site which primarily serves Hispanic and Latino Catholics. Currently, the site hosts games for a local soccer league and food vendors every Sunday. Additional plans for the communal space include adding picnic tables and a gazebo.
Estela Reyes-Bugg, CSS’ Administrator of Volunteer and Parish Community Relations said, “In nearly 24 years with Catholic Social Services, one of my greatest blessings has been working directly with communities, listening about their challenges, and helping them achieve their dreams. In reflecting on this project, I am reminded of the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who said, ‘ We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, Knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development.’” [i]
Working with the community for over a year to make the vision of this garden space a reality has been a joy. I love to hear parishioners saying, ‘I am going to my little farm.’ Through this space the Church has provided individuals with a sense of pride, friendship, a natural sanctuary, and built a community within a community.
I am grateful to God and all those who have worked by my side to bring a wonderful concept to reality. In a special way I am grateful to Jim Amato, Jacki Delaney, and Ed Lis for trusting me to lead this endeavor as well as our friends at PHS, the pastor and parishioners of Saint Charles Borromeo, and our AmeriCorps Vista volunteers for accompanying me”
Throughout the spring of 2019, participating gardeners worked with Mr. Justin Trezza, PHS Director of Garden Programs, on the construction of the garden, including a new utility shed, a compost system, protective fencing, seed planting, and 44 garden plots. Funding for the project was made possible by CSS and PHS as well as a grant from Nutritional Development Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (NDS) and a generous donation from Mrs. Delaney and her husband Jim.
The gardens were planted with vegetables and other seedlings provided by PHS City Harvest, a program supporting local growers who offer produce to high-need neighborhoods.
Gardeners also attended a PHS Garden Tenders class, a training course for individuals interested in starting a community garden, taught by Ms. Sally McCabe, Associate Director of Community Education for PHS.
Note: To learn more about Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, please visit http://cssphiladelphia.org.