When Fr. Dan Belanger, CSV, gathered last month with members of the St. George Parish Garden Club — for one of his last parties before heading to his new assignment in Las Vegas — they all donned specially designed T-shirts, calling themselves “Pot Heads.”

Fr. Dan Belanger

The play on words reflects the nearly 100 pots they have planted around the church grounds, since the club formed in 2010, one year after Fr. Dan arrived as pastor.

On July 1, Fr. Dan officially started his new assignment, as associate pastor of St. Viator Catholic Community in Las Vegas, while Fr. Patrick Render, CSV, assumed the leadership of St. George. Still, Fr. Dan’s legacy in part remains across the campus, that he and the Garden Club members transformed in sacred space.

“Our belief is that when you enter St. George property, you are entering church,” Fr. Dan said back in 2022, when the parish was part of the Kankakee Kultivators’ Garden Walk.

Being featured in the garden walk reflected the club’s efforts to beautify the parish and add peaceful, contemplative places for parishioners to go to and reflect. They divided the grounds  into 11 “zones” tended to by individual Garden Club members. They also broke up each zone into islands of color, and many of them include roses, but they also include varieties of perennials, tall grasses, lilies, hostas, ferns and vibrant annuals, as well as religious imagery.

In 2018, after three years of fundraising, they commissioned and installed a replica of the Our Lady of Grace statue in a prominent place on the church grounds. This particular image holds a lot of significance for Viatorians, dating back to the community’s founder, Fr. Louis Querbes.

Our Lady of Grace statue at St. George

More recently, club members added a new “Secret Garden” to go along with the parish’s Butterfly Garden, Veterans’ Garden and Rosary Garden. Embedded in each are small fountains, religious imagery and as many as 90 decorative pots.

“The beautiful grounds of St. George,” Fr. Dan says, “are a place where people can see God through his creation.”