Semillas de Vida Come to Life!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Our Semillas de Vida Garden at Assumption Center, Worcester, MA has come to life!  Spring brings the gardeners back.  Seeds go into the soil.  Compost gets turned.  Life returns!  This video tells the garden's story well.  Sr. Catherine's accompanying article gives greater insight into the meaning of our little plot of land and the seeds of life that come from it.  Enjoy!

The Semillas de Vida Garden is a Project of the U.S. Province, the Worcester Community and our lay friends Located at Assumption Center, 16 Vineyard St., Worcester, MA.

Begun by our AMA Letty Williams and a few of her ESL students, our community garden has grown over the past eight years. The original two, 4’ x 8’ raised beds have become eight. As a community, we share the work and the harvest. The children maintain the compost, collecting food scraps from the Center and our neighbors, as well as refuse from the garden. They facilitate the entire process, from turning the pile to distributing the finished product. They learn to appreciate the roles of even the humblest, and often the least attractive, creatures. This also accomplishes another important part of our work, enriching the depleted soil and thus contributing to healing the Earth. 

We grow a variety of vegetables: peas, lettuce, leeks, spinach, carrots, cabbage, different greens and herbs, root crops and flowers. We always try to grow something new to us, like Brazilian eggplant or peanuts; and vegetables specific to the cultures of our workers, such as tomatillos and habanera peppers. We have strawberries, blueberries (a gift from my final profession), and two apple trees, planted by the children from seed. In all of our efforts, we try to model respect for all the abundant and diverse life in the garden.

Located in an urban setting, the garden has become both a classroom and a melting pot. Workers from diverse cultures, classes and ages rub elbows and get their hands in the dirt. Older children explain to younger the workings of the compost; adults pass on how to carefully drop seeds into neatly drawn furrows, how to gently pack the earth around a seedling. We have welcomed gardeners from Mexico, El Salvador, the Philippines, Burkina Faso, Algeria, and Fiji, as well as different areas of the U.S.A.; recent immigrants and long-time residents. We work with people from the more affluent West Side of Worcester to the working class, immigrant neighborhoods of Main South.  Working side by side, gardeners are able to bridge differences as they discover their common love of the garden.  

Last year we expanded our efforts to begin a Butterfly Garden. This is developing into an area devoted to providing food and habitat for pollinators, such as butterflies and bees. Here again we accomplish the twin goals of healing the earth and passing on an appreciation for the intrinsic value of every creature. 

The celebration that ties all this together is the annual Garden Blessing, held in October. Circling round the garden, in a combination of English and Spanish, we pray and sing our thanksgiving to the Earth and to the Creator Spirit who sustains and breathes life into us all.  The children plant garlic, which will lie dormant in the earth until spring, as a sign both of our faith in an unseen God and of our hope for growth in the next year. Led by Fr. Aidan, AA we all help cover the beds with a warm blanket of straw, inviting our garden to take a well-deserved rest. Joined by Sisters and friends, we all share a meal prepared by and reflective of our garden community. 

Marie Eugénie loved her times and found ways to respond to the reality in which she lived. Guided by her broad vision, we must find ways to respond to what is clearly the most pressing and pervasive issue of our day, this ecological crisis. Our times are calling us to listen deeply to and engage in a radical way with her words:  "The Earth is a place for the Glory of God!"

-  Sr. Catherine Soley, R.A.