Tag Archives: St Elizabeth Ann Seton

Church Gardens: Why aren’t more doing them?

 

Lutheran Church of Hope – Hope Garden – 2016                                                  (Don Bladow pictured in garden)

In 2015, at the suggestion of a St. John United Methodist member, I wrote my first column on church gardens. I followed that column up with several others about the fantastic strides some local churches have been making in planting those gardens. (see http://www.churchvisits.com/?s=church+gardens to read those columns).

However, considering that Anchorage has around 400 churches, it’s disturbing to see so few churches devoting space and emphasis to this practical ministry with many spiritual implications. Fewer, if any, of those gardens involve individuals in the community who are given the produce grown in those gardens. Is it possible that a sense of entitlement has grown up among recipients of all of this fresh produce, overriding any real interest in learning how food is grown, where it comes from, and the significant amount of labor to make it happen? Or, are churches struggling with the concept of involving needy recipients in the process of food production?

It’s already planting season, and planning for those gardens should have occurred months ago. While never too late, concerted effort could still be made to make them happen yet this year. If one looks at the average physical church property, many have adequate space surrounding them to make it happen. Just look at the average church property you drive by regularly.

Several churches are making a difference in the community by dedicating the space, putting in the requisite planting beds, and fencing them for protection. One of my favorite church gardens, and largest to my knowledge, is Lutheran Church of Hope on W. Northern Lights. They started last year with around 4,000 sq ft, and have doubled their space to over 9,000 sq ft. Their bountiful harvest goes to Lutheran Social Services of Alaska (LSSA) for distribution through their food pantry.

Master gardener Don Bladow shares that The garden is not free of snow yet so is looks like we won’t be planting ’til the more traditional time near Memorial Day. We did expand it last fall to about 9,000 sq. ft. It’s all fenced. We got that done in October. I have been planting starts and have plans for a couple of new experiments this year. Will try to grow a number of other species of peppers and cucumbers. The cukes will be outside under a lean to type greenhouse that will be open on the ends. Will also plant beans and turnips this year as well as most of the stuff we planted last year.”

Hope Garden (potatoes from one plant)

Don maintains a blog on the garden and expects to start posting to it several times monthly as early as June. His excellent blog is located at http://harvestofhopememorialgarden.blogspot.com/.

Hope Garden (one Friday’s harvest)

Anchorage Lutheran has also taken the plunge into church gardening with 17 – 4×8’ raised beds. They’ll be fencing the garden shortly, a necessity, as church gardens make excellent browsing and forage sources for rabbits and moose. I talked with Lisa Wilkinson, co-coordinator of their garden, who, with member Dick Mikkelsen has been a strong champion. They’re planting potatoes, cabbage, carrots, primarily, along with a mixture of other things. They’ll be donating their product to LSSA and Beans’ Café according to member/gardener wishes. They’ll be planting in compost, and are setting up a composter on site to further this practice. Lisa shares their goal is “to teach and donate”.  That’s the first step in involving a wider community.

St. John United Methodist Church has had a “Jesus Garden” for several years. Coordinator Allison McLain has personal and practical visions for the Jesus Garden. Allison says, “My Jesus Garden vision for this year is one I have followed for as many years there have been Jesus Garden’s in my life: grow fresh vegetables for people in need of food. Growing vegetables is something that I can do to support people in need and happily there are friends at church and a husband and daughter who believe in this idea too!!! I feel called by Jesus to do this…and I wonder sometimes if Jesus called me to do this because it is something reasonably easy for me to do for people in need with a full-time job, family, church, and the other adventures in my life.”

My practical vision for this year is to expand our vegetable growing abilities by asking people in our church to be Potato Nannies – to grow potatoes at home in buckets – all the potatoes would of course be part of our St. John Jesus Food donation to Downtown Soup Kitchen. With potatoes growing elsewhere we will have more space to grow more chard and kale in the garden at St. John. My goal for this year is to grow and donate 300 pounds of food to DSK.”

“Kale and chard are two standard soup ingredients for soups on the weekly menu at Downtown Soup Kitchen (DSK), where all the Jesus Garden produce is donated. Last year we donated 260 pounds of produce (peas, red runner beans, chard, kale, parsley, basil, lovage, and potatoes.). I plan what we grow with Vicki Martin at DSK; we only grow what will be used in soups made by DSK chefs. Often what we deliver early in the week is used later that week in soup.  If our donated vegetables don’t go into soups right away DSK volunteers process them for freezing and later use.”
Other churches with gardens this year include:
Central Lutheran Church
Christ Church Episcopal Church
Joy Lutheran Church
Lutheran Social Services of Alaska
St. Anthony’s Catholic Church
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
Turnagain United Methodist Church
Trinity Lutheran Church – Palmer

If I’ve omitted any church from this list, please let me know and I’ll add it to a new tab I’ll be placing on my website ChurchVisits.com.

Blessings to all churches for the coming harvest from these gardens. I’ll provide updates as I receive them. Write me at churchvisits@gmail.com to keep me updated. There is a very practical side of ministry but most local churches seem to be missing the boat in applying that lesson.

A trio of events showcases the vitality of the local Catholic community

Last week I attended two local Catholic activities that indicate a growing and moving church. While attending, I heard about a upcoming third activity of local interest. While not all local churches embrace their Catholic neighbors, due to various theological points of disagreements, it’s important we don’t forget the words of Jesus, from John 10:16: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”

Alaska Catholic Youth Conference

Last week, 144 Catholic youth from around the state came to Anchorage for the 16th annual Alaska Catholic Youth Conference. The conference theme, “Boundless Mercy,” tied into Pope Francis’ 2015 declaration that this year be a Year of Holy Mercy, a jubilee year to follow the 50th anniversary the Second Vatican Council.

Each day’s theme was on an aspect of mercy: “What is mercy?,” “Living Mercy,” “Spiritual Mercy,” “Mercy is God’s Name.” Out-of-town youth stayed at Lumen Christi High School or with local friends. Youth participated in events that included workshops, social justice service projects, musical entertainment, and masses.

“The service projects were really good,” said Bonnie Bezousek, director of faith formation for the Anchorage Archdiocese.

“The youth painted bowls for Bean’s Café, wrote letters to military personnel in the family, and discovered how social media raised awareness of issues regarding Catholic social teaching and works of mercy. Junior high youth also painted decorations for St. Benedict’s VBS (vacation Bible school).”

All three in-state bishops were present and available to the youth: Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz, Fairbanks Bishop Chad Zielinski, and Juneau Bishop Ed Burns. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, was a special guest at the conference. Each bishop celebrated Mass with the youth. Pedro Rubalcava, a musician from Portland, Oregon, performed a concert at Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral and provided music throughout the week.

The Tuesday evening program, called the “ACYC Tonight Show,” mimicked its broadcast namesake with spiritual trivia guessing games that included the youth and bishops, youth tweets about embarrassing Catholic moments, and a chance to question any bishop about anything. In all my years visiting churches and attending conferences I’ve not seen anything similar. This was an engaged group.

Raising money for Anchorage seminarians

Later that week I attended a fundraising dinner at St. Patrick’s Parish to create an endowment for seminarian education. The archdiocese is experiencing a renewed interest in the priesthood as evidenced by the recent ordinations of the Revs. Patrick Brosamer and Arthur Roraff, and Deacon Robert Whitney. At the dinner, five new seminarians were introduced. Previously, only one or two seminarians were studying at any given time. Now, it has become a healthy career choice.

Traditionally, the Roman Catholic Church pays for seminarian training. Due to the expanding base of local seminarians, the archdiocese felt a stronger financial foundation for this training needed to be developed. Currently seminarian education costs are funded out of the archdiocese budget. An endowment to fund future seminarian education makes great sense.

To help achieve this, Catholic Extension, (a canonical institution reporting directly to the pope), and their donors awarded a 2-to-1 matching grant of up to $50,000. Through leadership dinners at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Andrew’s and St. Benedict’s parishes, private and public parish dinners, and the $79,000 raised at the St. Patrick’s Parish event, the archdiocese achieved its initial goal of $100,000 matching money.

This initial $150,000 provides the seed money for an anticipated $3 million to 5 million endowment. Catholic Extension financially supports missions in the church, because all of Alaska’s archdioceses are considered missions.

“It’s nice we have young men leading in discipleship. What we can do as disciples is to support them by giving back,” said Laurie Dinneen, the archdiocese’s stewardship and development director.

At my table, composed mostly of Holy Family Cathedral members, I was fortunate to be seated next to one of the new seminarians, Ed Burke, from Kenai, and a recent high school graduate. As we talked I gained a sense of his deep commitment to the Catholic faith and comfort in the symbols and work of the church.

The tasty dinner, fundraising activities, mingling of friends of faith, and the Rev. Leo Walsh’s humorous remarks as master of ceremonies produced a unity of support I seldom see in church events.

Holy Family Cathedral unveils stained glass window project

Just last month, the stained glass windows project “The Joyful Mysteries,” culminated with the completion of the windows’ installation. Pastor of Holy Family Cathedral, the Rev. Anthony Patalano, is joyful this project came to fruition in his third and final assignment here.

“Our ‘windows project’ has been in the works for more than two years and is the culmination, along with necessary renovations and improvements, of our centennial celebration as a parish. It couldn’t have happened without the prayers and generosity of many Holy Family parishioners,” Patalano said.

The cathedral itself was dedicated in a ceremony earlier this month, along with the new windows, sconces, and restored stations of the cross. Patalano has been retired by his Dominican order, and will be moving to Los Angeles in July where he’ll serve as Resident Chaplain to the Cloistered Dominican Nuns in LA.

Noting their themes, Patalano continued, “The Joyful Mysteries seemed especially appropriate for Holy Family as the Holy Family is represented in four of the five windows. St. Therese of Lisieux is the patron saint of missions and of the State of Alaska whose dioceses are mission dioceses.”

Holy Family invites the community to a special showing of these windows frpm 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. June 25 at the cathedral. Volunteers will provide tours and explanations of the beautiful windows, their history in Germany, and restoration. A reception will be held in the Parish Hall. A beautiful souvenir book will also be available for a slight charge.

Anchorage Archdiocese announces series of major clergy changes

Recently, Archbishop Roger L. Schwietz, who oversees the archdiocese of Anchorage, announced significant changes affecting Roman Catholic clergy and parishes in Alaska. Statewide, about 15 percent of Alaskans identified as Catholic in a recent survey.

The Anchorage archdiocese has needed a canon lawyer since Rev. Tom Brundage, priest at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Eagle River and also judicial vicar, returned to Milwaukee a year ago. He had been on loan from the archdiocese of Milwaukee for about nine years. In the interim, canon lawyer the Rev. Pat Travers from the Juneau diocese has been filling in. Schwietz announced the Rev. Leo Walsh, parish priest at St. Benedict’s Catholic Parish would be returning to Rome to study canon law for the local archdiocese tribunal. Walsh has previously studied in Rome, receiving a doctorate in sacred theology from the Angelicum, the pontifical university there.

“Our God is the God of surprises,” Walsh said, when asked about the change. “Such was the case a few weeks ago when Archbishop Schwietz asked me if I would consider returning to Rome to get a degree in canon law with the intent of returning to the Archdiocese in three years to be the judicial vicar and run the marriage tribunal. Before then, the thought had never crossed my mind. Yet after reflection it made a lot of sense. So I agreed.”

Walsh also noted it would provide a change in direction for him. “It is indeed a career change,” he said. “While the tribunal is not a parochial ministry, it is most definitely a pastoral ministry, and a delicate one at that. People do not petition for a declaration of nullity until after they have already experienced the pain of a civil divorce. Therefore the process requires a very delicate, pastoral approach. Pope Francis has said as much in recent times in this regard.”

After three years of study, Walsh will receive a license in canon law or Juris Canonici Licentia, which is somewhat comparable to a J.D.

The Rev. Tom Lilly, who has been parish priest at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish for 11 years, will replace Walsh at St. Benedict’s, where he will also serve as priest for the parish and Lumen Christi Catholic High School. Lilly is currently the vicar general of the Anchorage archdiocese and will continue in this administrative role. When the archbishop is outside of the diocese, Lilly acts in his behalf and stands in as the bishop would in administrative matters.

“For me, the coming transfer to St. Benedict’s is another opportunity to serve,” he said. “Same church; different part of the vineyard! I begin there on July 1.” He’s looking forward to encouraging spiritual well-being of the youth there in navigating the challenges of acceptance, faith and reason, career path, low self-esteem and our sex-saturated culture.

He will be replaced at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton by Rev. Steven Moore, who’d recently been appointed as parish priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral — “at no small personal sacrifice,” noted Schwietz, “as Father Moore will have physically moved four times in the last three years.”

The Rev. Andrew Bellisario has succeeded Moore at Our Lady of Guadalupe. Bellisario is a senior Vincentian, who was previously the head of the society’s Los Angeles province, and and his move there represents the beginning of a fresh effort to reach Spanish speakers. With few local Spanish-speaking priests, the archdiocese had long sought better ways to serve Hispanic Catholics, even provided language immersion training for some priests.

Meanwhile, several priests from that society who have served briefly at the co-cathedral have noted a need for more Spanish-speaking priests to serve growing Hispanic population in Anchorage and elsewhere in the state, and forwarded those concerns to the head of their order in Rome. The society now plans to “establish an outreach ministry to the Hispanic community throughout the Archdiocese with the expectation of a third Vincentian priest arriving later this year,” Schwietz said.

When I talked to Bellisario , he told me the Vincentians were founded for the specific mission of evangelizing the poor. Talking about their order founder, Bellisario said, “St. Vincent noted ‘reading the signs of the times,’ he talked about not getting ahead of divine providence.” Noting there were 50,000 Hispanics in Alaska, he said the Vincentians’ mandate was of outreach to Hispanics in the archdiocese.

“The Vincentians are making a major commitment to the development of Hispanic ministry within the Archdiocese,” Rev. Scott Medlock, priest at St. Patrick’s Parish and the Anchorage archdiocese’s vicar for clergy said.

The Archbishop also announced that the Rev.. Scott Garrett, from Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Wasilla, would “return to serving the people of Bristol Bay as pastor at Holy Rosary in Dillingham, St. Theresa in Naknek, and the mission in King Salmon where he served prior to going to Sacred Heart five years ago. He is a pilot and will be flying to some of the villages that cannot be reached by commercial airplane.”

Replacing Garrett will be the Rev. Joseph McGilloway who will also serve as canonical pastor for Big Lake, Willow, Talkeetna, and Trapper Creek.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Andrew Lee becomes parochial vicar at Holy Cross Parish, and the Rev. Mark Stronach, a Benedictine monk from Oregon’s Mount Angel Abbey, will move to Our Lady of the Lake, and serve as parochial vicar under McGilloway.

These are significant changes for the archdiocese. which appear to strengthen the Catholic Church in Alaska.

About the Author

Chris Thompson

Chris Thompson is a religion scholar who has been visiting Anchorage and other local area churches for over 15 years. Go to his website, churchvisits.com, or follow him on Twitter  at twitter.com/churchvisits or email at churchvisits@gmail.com.

Church gardens grow community: It’s time to start planting more assertively.

Last year, I wrote about local initiatives some churches have taken by planting church gardens or allowing church property to be used for community gardens. When I started writing that column, I pre-supposed those gardens would be used primarily for producing fresh food for Bean’s Café, Downtown Soup Kitchen and other community organizations that feed the hungry. And many church organizations do use them for that purpose.  What I didn’t realize was that a growing number of churches allow anyone to use a garden plot on their grounds regardless of where the food goes.

As I wrote that column, I was unaware of the garden at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Northeast Anchorage. It was created through parishioners’ conversations with neighbors. The neighborhoods around the church are heavily populated with immigrants, and many have garden plots at the church. These gardeners are allowed to use their assigned plots for growing produce to feed their families. Many of them also sell produce at various times throughout the season. What a wonderful use of church property. I visited the garden last fall during the AFACT celebration of Medicaid expansion. It’s beautifully tended, containing many vegetables not native to this area; often the gardeners are immigrants from Southeast Asia or the South Pacific.

Many churches have beautiful grounds, often park-like, even without many trees having access to sunlight for growing. This land might be utilized to grow food for food banks, church pantries, feeding programs and church suppers. Entire outreach programs could be constructed around such programs, even to the point of their being utilized year-round. There is much wisdom in Jewish medieval philosopher Maimonides’ saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Many recipients of community feeding services might have a greater appreciation of the gift of food if they understood, through participation, the work that goes into producing food.

In other areas around the Lower 48, churches are seeing the value of community gardens and implementing them. For a church community the size of Anchorage with over 375 houses of worship, there are few churches using their land as God’s gift. Conversely, clergy here frequently dwell on stewardship as a church member responsibility. Why don’t they apply the same stewardship rules and principles to church property?  I realize some church properties are too small, bounded by parking lots, contain too many trees, and meet in schools or mini-malls. But what about the rest? I know of churches adjacent to vacant lots that could be used to promote community gardening.

Practical Christianity is harder to do than theoretical Christianity. We attend church, listen to sermons, study the Bible and intellectualize what Christianity is all about. Matthew 25 shares Jesus’ words about practicing practical Christianity. “Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” The chapter continues to detail the unfortunate fate of those who did not practice these virtues.

It’s been my observation that many Christians find it easier to contribute money to churches or go on short-term mission trips than to roll up their sleeves and create meaningful change in the community. Some churches do it better than most, but there is much room for improvement. Millions have been spent in Anchorage to invest in foreign missions in countries where Christianity is predominant, when Alaska is one of least Christian states in the U.S. The mission field is here!

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church is an example of what churches can do quickly. Starting last year, they planted seven gardens, with additional potato beds planted for F.I.S.H. They’re planning eight more big raised beds for their new Thomas Center for Senior Leadership later this year. Rector Michael Burke reports they have “lots of gardeners and visitors to the gardens and labyrinth.” Currently all produce grown is donated to organizations that feed the hungry.

Lutheran Church of Hope started small and late last year with five elevated boxes behind the church. Congregation member Don Bladow “has been the primary blood, sweat, tears, and prayer behind the garden,” says Pastor Julia Seymour. Don completed the University of Alaska Extension Program’s Master Gardener class in anticipation of a busy planting season. He plans to have 20,000 square feet under cultivation. Bladow says they’ll plant about one-third of that this year. He’s been raising money for the garden by turning wood bowls from trees that were on the property. All of the proceeds go into the project. Money is still being raised for specific gardening needs. This summer they’ll plant broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, parsnips, radishes and zucchini. All produce will be given to Lutheran Social Services of Alaska (LSSA). Any of our food pantries will say how welcome fresh grown food is to recipients. Don maintains a blog on this project at harvestofhopememorialgarden.blogspot.com. Our community needs many more like Don.

Local churches currently having or developing community food gardens include Lutheran Church of Hope, St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Joy Lutheran Church – Eagle River, St. John United Methodist Church, Turnagain United Methodist Church, Chugiak United Methodist Church, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School, Trinity Lutheran Church – Palmer, River of Life – Chugiak, and Central Lutheran Church.

Something our local church community might consider is what Methodists in Kalamazoo, Michigan are doing. They’ve created a “Summer Christian Camp” for a distressed neighborhood there. They focus on young adults 16-28. This 10-day ministry focuses on food and hunger and includes community gardening, 4-H community projects, ‘Free Store’ ministry, and Loves and Fishes food pantry. They train youth leaders, educators, pastors, and other passionate Christian adults.

Jesus often referred to food, hunger, feeding, planting, sowing and harvest themes in His ministry. I challenge other local ministries to emulate those lessons.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Church…Unusual Service…Not Welcoming

[img_assist|nid=135366|title=St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church Sign|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=238]
Summary
My visit to Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, a Roman Catholic church on Huffman Road, was an interesting contrast with my visit to Holy Family Cathedral this summer. Not greeted by anyone in the church either coming or going, I felt much the same as when I meet with a similar lack of reception in many Protestant churches. However, it was a most unusual service with a visiting 77 year old priest from Oklahoma City presiding. Well lit for a Catholic church, Seton is wonderfully accented by floor to ceiling stained glass windows behind the alter. A strong church voice in the area of “Right to Life”, this priest, Fr. Daniel McAffrey, drew the attendees attention to the Churches position in this area. Rarely do I hear this kind of “message from headquarters” in any church service. If this is the position of the Catholic Church, it seemed appropriate to share it in a service of this type. The other bright spot was the choir/musical group of seven, including two of the group who played guitar, plus a pianist. Unfortunately, I drifted back out into our community without any personal connection being made with this church.

Catholics Tend to Not Be Evangelical
My experience with Catholics is they really are not looking for new converts. New members tend to come from “cradle Catholics” and from a steady influx of Catholic believers from outside our borders. So, I was not overly surprised by a lack of a greeting or even a bulletin being handed to me as I entered Elizabeth Ann Seton’s sanctuary on October 19, 2008 for the 11:30 a.m. service.

Except for a large cross behind the alter, Seton seemed architecturally similar to a Protestant church. Modern in design, sparing of ornamentation, it was exceptionally well lighted for a Catholic church which often are quite dark. It appeared quite full with approximately 300-400 worshipers. The musical group was quite delightful, small in number, but having great voicing. The guitars played by several of the group and the piano added to it’s refreshing character. The group sang hymns most pleasing to the ear. At one point, they stopped singing for 7-10 minutes which I felt was an uncomfortable pause.

Unusual Priest
The visiting priest this day was Fr. Daniel McAffrey from Oklahoma City. As the readings from scripture were introduced he asked for our attention because “These are love letters from God.” (Isaiah 45:1, 4-6) This 77 year old priest, spoke on “Right to Life” issues. Saying he was ordained 50 years ago, he presided with a generous sense of humor.

He noted that contraception and sterilization was taking married couples away from God. Saying marriage brings new life into the world, he further noted 80-90% of Catholics were contracepting. Priests are silent on this issue, he added. With 50% of Catholics divorcing, he questioned the role or lack of role the spiritual life played in this, i.e. rosary, confession, reading the bible, etc. Further compounding these issues is the fact that 62 is the average age of priests in the U.S., and 70+ is the average age of Catholic sisters in the U.S.

Consistent with a previous article in this blog, he noted that in other areas of the world, Alaska was being viewed as a foreign mission, with Fr. Jaime, a Bishop in the Philippines being one such proponent.

What’s the Solution?
Fr. McAffrey said the solution was to return to God. Pleading not to be arrogant, as picking up your cross is tough. He called attention to marriage being about children and intimacy. He noted there would be a woman physician available to counsel couples about these issues after the service. Whether you agree or disagree with his position, he was clear and gently pleaded for Catholic mind share on these issues. It was refreshing to hear these issues discussed openly, to know that some churches still care to share church-oriented teachings with their parishioners.

The Eucharist
Very practical and teaching-oriented, Fr. McAffrey clearly explained the sacraments, preparations, and prayers during the Eucharist. There was a great tide of attendees who participated in this ritual, so much so that it appeared they would run short on the Eucharistic emblems.

In conclusion, it was an interesting visit. I had little contact with anyone during the service, except for the Catholic version of “Meet n’ Greet”, The Peace. I’m guessing Catholic churches are not warm because they don’t have to be. Catholics come to church because of very strong programming to attend services. I’m still hoping to find a Catholic Church that is genuinely warm and outgoing, and welcoming to visitors. I tried several times to take pictures of the stained glass to accompany this blog article, but found the church locked, even when I was assured it would be unlocked.
[img_assist|nid=135368|title=St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=153]