One of the impacts of the pandemic seems to be that people are returning to simpler times, including taking up gardening. What grew out of so many people being confined to their homes, has led to a sense of comfort as people return to the land — and take control over their worries about food shortage.

Saint Viator High School parent, Jim Flynn, is a first time gardener this year.

On both fronts, the Viatorian Community seems to have been ahead of the curve.

Since 2012, Viatorians have set aside land on the Province Center grounds for a large vegetable garden.  Fr. Dan Hall, CSV, Provincial, conceived the garden as an initiative to help provide nutritious vegetables to families in the Northwest suburbs, struggling to put food on the table.

Sharon Murphy started gardening with her daughter, Amanda, now a graduate of Saint Viator High School.

“It’s all about feeding the hungry,” Fr. Hall said at the outset.

Right from the start, he drew support from a wide variety of gardeners. This summer, there are 14 raised beds and they are thriving. A combination of Viatorian associates, staff members and families from Saint Viator High School are cultivating its crops. Early harvests have included a variety of cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, squash and herbs.

In all, the Viatorian Giving Garden has produced more than two tons of fresh vegetables over the years, with donations going to the food pantries at Catholic Charities and Wheeling Township, both located in Chicago’s Northwest suburbs.

Associate Joan Sweeney’s flowers are filling in.

Each summer, its produce includes radishes, lettuce, beets, peppers, zucchini, squash and eggplant, as well as corn, sweet potatoes, broccoli, green beans and herbs. The garden also produces fresh flowers throughout the summer. Nurtured by Associate Joan Sweeney, the variety of perennials are cut regularly and arranged into small bouquets for food pantry clients.

“I think of them as food for the soul,” Joan says.

Associate John Dussman coordinates the garden and its many volunteers, and he says it’s a labor of love.

“It’s a wonderful effort,” John says, “by all the gardeners who work so hard.”