When the parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish, Blackheath, responded to Pope Francis’ call to care for our common home, little did they realise their parish garden would boost both body and spirit.
Twelve months since its inception, parishioners have found that through the garden, they are living out Pope Francis’ call for ‘pastoral creativity’ – creating an opportunity to attract new members to the parish as well as feeding local people in need.
Developed as part of the parish’s Laudato Si’ Action Plan, named after Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on the environment, the garden sits on what was previously under-utilised space next to the parish hall in Blackheath.
Parishioners, community providing a helping hand
A core group of 12 dedicated volunteers from both the parish and local community care for the garden on a Wednesday morning and twice a month on a Saturday.
The garden is supported by donations from the parish, the Catholic Care Drop-In Centre in Springwood and the local Men’s Shed of both money and reused, recycled and reclaimed items such as hoses, manure and pavers.
Community Garden team member Julie O’Keeffe explains that the parish has a strong chapter of the St Vincent de Paul Society, and when they have meetings with clients, they allow them to pick their own produce from the garden.
The garden also contributes food to the local Blackheath Area Neighbourhood Centre’s Food Bank which offers fresh produce to their clients, as well as ingredients for their soup kitchen initiative with the Blackheath Uniting Church.
Garden a way to evangelise to the community
Fellow garden team member Brian Bright explains how the garden has given parishioners the opportunity to evangelise.
“The community kitchen garden is a way that our parish members can care for creation and live out their baptismal call to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
“To quote Pope Francis, modern day evangelisers must use ‘pastoral creativity to reach people where they live, not waiting for them to come, but where they live, discovering opportunities for listening, dialogue and encounter.’
“Many who have joined us from the broader community have become valued members of our parish community, and even if they are not practising, have joined us for prayer in our parish church.
“We’ve even been fortunate that through the garden, we have welcomed seven new parish members to our faith community, which is enriching to the parish in this post-COVID period,” he said.
Parish excited by future benefits of garden
Brian explains that the parish is planning on hosting events such as Season of Creation liturgies and celebrations in the community garden, and in fair weather, he hopes that parish meetings can be held in the garden itself.
“As the garden becomes more established, it will provide a place for educational events and instruction for our Sacred Heart Parish, the Blackheath community and the rest of the Blue Mountains Deanery,” he adds.
“We as a faith community are being part of the transformation Pope Francis wants us to undertake. The garden, the weekly cuppas and other initiatives are a lighthouse example of how to do this.”
Tips and tricks for your own garden
Our Sacred Heart gardeners share some tips and tricks for the season:
- A good soil is key.
- Plant what’s right for the season and for your area.
- Give the right amount of water.
- You’ve got to love your plants.
- Just give it a go.
This article was originally published in the 2023 Season of Creation | Spring edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here.