The Viatorian Community garden is now in its 10th year of raising fresh vegetables for families served by area food pantries. Now more than ever, its mission remains vital, says Fr. Daniel Hall, CSV, Provincial.

Fr. Dan Hall, right, blesses the garden in 2012

“With inflation and the price of food going up, fresh fruits and vegetables are the first to go for families struggling to make ends meet,” he says. “That’s where we can help.”

Just last year, the garden and its ministry took another step toward being a sacred space. Thanks to the efforts of Br. John Eustice, CSV, and Dan Masterton, who work together in Vocation Ministry, they registered the Viatorian Community Garden with the Saint Kateri Conservation Center.

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

The center is a national Catholic conservation group that promotes faith, integral ecology and life. It is named for Saint Kateri Tekakwitha , who was canonized in 2012 and is the first female Native American saint. Her feast day is today, July 14. She is the patron saint of the environment, ecology and Indigenous people.

Among its many programs is a data base — and map — of gardens and parks that have attained the designation as a Saint Kateri Habitat. The Viatorian Community Garden was added last year and people can learn about it as part of the center’s Saint Kateri Habitat tour.

“We’re trying to lift up the voices of those who are already caring for the environment,” says Kat Hoenke, program director for the Saint Kateri Conservation Center, “and make Catholics aware of how to do it.”

Fr. Charles Bolser, left, with Associate John Dussman

Just this year, Viatorians recommitted themselves to feeding the hungry, by doubling the size of the garden to include 25 raised beds. Along with the expansion, they welcomed area groups to join them, and several took them up on the offer, including members of the Arlington Heights Garden Club, staff members and patrons of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, First United Methodist Church and the Children of Abraham Coalition.

In June, at the beginning of the growing season, Fr. Charles Bolser, CSV, offered a blessing for the garden and its volunteers: “May God bless you as you till the soil, plant the seeds — and make an effort to bring life out of the ground.”