Divine Word Father Pedro Bou spends some quiet time reflecting in the garden.
Divine Word Father Pedro Bou spends some quiet time reflecting in the garden.
Many people are probably surprised to learn that there’s a garden on the campus of St. Anthony Claret Church, Lakewood. It’s behind the rectory and faces Lake Shenandoah. 

People are even more surprised to find out the garden can be a place for them to visit and pray and if they want, a bag of vegetables to take home.

PHOTO GALLERY: Garden grows into evangelization tool in Lakewood

But for Father Pelagio C. Pateño, familiarly known as Father Jun, the 100’ x 45’ garden he started has become much more than just a hobby he loves or a way for him to get some exercise as he tends to the many kinds of vegetables – tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapeños, bell peppers, scallions, eggplants, peas, zucchini, okra, cherry tomatoes, cilantro and parsley. The garden has become a tool for evangelization.

“The garden is available to anyone from the parish who wants to visit,” said Divine Word Father Guilherme Andrino, parish pastor, and when it comes to reaching out to people about the Catholic faith, whether they are curious to learn more about the faith or have been away from the Church and maybe looking to return, “in my opinion, anything that brings us together helps us to evangelize.”

“Especially now when we hear about separation, violence and illness all over the news, it’s always good to hear something that brings people together and Father Jun’s garden has brought people together,” Father Andrino said, noting that along with the vegetables, the garden is where visitors can get a supply of figs from the fig tree and meet the two chickens who provide eggs for the rectory.  

Father Andrino said that Father Jun, who serves as parochial vicar in Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, harvests his garden in May around Mother’s Day and the bounty is ready to be picked and enjoyed by all by the middle of June.

With people visiting the garden throughout the summer months, Father Andrino said he’s sure that they have spread the word about how Father Jun, “this gentle priest loves sharing this beautiful garden with the parishioners and friends.  

“Just that is enough to bring people into the conversation about the faith,” he said.  

“Maybe it is too simple for some people, but the garden can be a great place to be for those are looking for friendship and fraternal love,” Father Andrino continued. “When people leave the garden, they know that gesture of giving some vegetables came from Father Jun’s heart, you know it came from love,” he said. “The garden is Father Jun’s way of putting the Gospel into action.”