Inspired by a child, Fair Haven parish refreshes Marian garden

September 6, 2023 at 11:34 a.m.
Father Christopher Picollo, pastor of Nativity Parish, Fair Haven, leads a prayer service in which he dedicated the Marian garden on the parish grounds. Courtesy photo
Father Christopher Picollo, pastor of Nativity Parish, Fair Haven, leads a prayer service in which he dedicated the Marian garden on the parish grounds. Courtesy photo

By CHRISTINA LESLIE
Correspondent

A little girl’s dismay at finding “Mary in the weeds” led members of Nativity Parish, Fair Haven, to overhaul a courtyard garden, honoring the Blessed Mother while exercising the Franciscan tenets of Laudato Si.

Earlier this year, while exploring a little-used corridor between the church and the parish office, Elaine Eadon and her six-year-old granddaughter, Lizzie, happened upon the overgrown interior courtyard where a large statue of Mary was, indeed, “in the weeds” as the youngster noted. “Since Mary loved and cared for Jesus, we should do the same for her,” wrote the youngster in a note to the pastor, Father Christopher P. Picollo. Thus began months of work by many helping hands.

Once the landscaping design was complete, Eadon and her husband, Tom, consulted with the parish’s Franciscan Earth Care Ministry to select the best plants for the interior courtyard. Knights of Columbus Council 3187 positioned a new five foot tall, 555-lb. statue of Mary upon a pedestal, while others planted native pollinators, and added a birdbath to welcome avian visitors.

“We wanted Mary in her rightful place,” said Elaine Eadon. “It is awesome. I didn’t know the impact would be so great.”

The rejuvenated garden made its debut Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption, during a ceremony following Mass. Readings from Scripture, Marian hymns, the recitation of the Rosary and a blessing from Father Picollo introduced the space which will be used as an outdoor classroom for the religious education program.

“Our parishioners did a great job in transforming an area of our campus that needed some attention into a truly beautiful area honoring Our Blessed Mother who is always pointing us to her Son,” said Father Picollo. “To dedicate and bless the Marian garden on the Assumption after Mass with a good number of people coming together in prayer was special.”

Members of the parish’s Franciscan Earth Care Ministry played an integral part in the project, noted Kathleen Hendrick. Its professed goal is to “always be good stewards of God’s creations by caring for and protecting the environment, our home, and all living things to ensure that our children will inherit a safe and sustainable Earth…[it] works to foster environmental awareness and sensitivity, promote sustainable practices, and inspire thoughtful action and community service efforts.”

“I like to refer to it as the learning/teaching garden,” said Hendrick of the group’s first project, an area outside the parish center replete with plants and grasses native to the Garden State. Beginning last spring during the pastorate of then-pastor Father James Grogan, Hendrick and fellow Franciscan ministry members Terry Flynn, Dianna Kumar and Maryann O’Neill relied upon research and the assistance of a local garden center to beautify the Fair Haven campus.

“l try to influence, not preach,” continued Hendrick as she explained the ways native plants and insects promote beneficial biodiversity. “With a small effort on each of our parts, we can make a difference.”

For further information on the Franciscan Earth Care Ministry at Nativity Parish, including a list of plants and insects native to N.J., see nativitychurchnj.org/Franciscan-earth-care-ministry/, or contact Kathleen Hendrick at [email protected].


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A little girl’s dismay at finding “Mary in the weeds” led members of Nativity Parish, Fair Haven, to overhaul a courtyard garden, honoring the Blessed Mother while exercising the Franciscan tenets of Laudato Si.

Earlier this year, while exploring a little-used corridor between the church and the parish office, Elaine Eadon and her six-year-old granddaughter, Lizzie, happened upon the overgrown interior courtyard where a large statue of Mary was, indeed, “in the weeds” as the youngster noted. “Since Mary loved and cared for Jesus, we should do the same for her,” wrote the youngster in a note to the pastor, Father Christopher P. Picollo. Thus began months of work by many helping hands.

Once the landscaping design was complete, Eadon and her husband, Tom, consulted with the parish’s Franciscan Earth Care Ministry to select the best plants for the interior courtyard. Knights of Columbus Council 3187 positioned a new five foot tall, 555-lb. statue of Mary upon a pedestal, while others planted native pollinators, and added a birdbath to welcome avian visitors.

“We wanted Mary in her rightful place,” said Elaine Eadon. “It is awesome. I didn’t know the impact would be so great.”

The rejuvenated garden made its debut Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption, during a ceremony following Mass. Readings from Scripture, Marian hymns, the recitation of the Rosary and a blessing from Father Picollo introduced the space which will be used as an outdoor classroom for the religious education program.

“Our parishioners did a great job in transforming an area of our campus that needed some attention into a truly beautiful area honoring Our Blessed Mother who is always pointing us to her Son,” said Father Picollo. “To dedicate and bless the Marian garden on the Assumption after Mass with a good number of people coming together in prayer was special.”

Members of the parish’s Franciscan Earth Care Ministry played an integral part in the project, noted Kathleen Hendrick. Its professed goal is to “always be good stewards of God’s creations by caring for and protecting the environment, our home, and all living things to ensure that our children will inherit a safe and sustainable Earth…[it] works to foster environmental awareness and sensitivity, promote sustainable practices, and inspire thoughtful action and community service efforts.”

“I like to refer to it as the learning/teaching garden,” said Hendrick of the group’s first project, an area outside the parish center replete with plants and grasses native to the Garden State. Beginning last spring during the pastorate of then-pastor Father James Grogan, Hendrick and fellow Franciscan ministry members Terry Flynn, Dianna Kumar and Maryann O’Neill relied upon research and the assistance of a local garden center to beautify the Fair Haven campus.

“l try to influence, not preach,” continued Hendrick as she explained the ways native plants and insects promote beneficial biodiversity. “With a small effort on each of our parts, we can make a difference.”

For further information on the Franciscan Earth Care Ministry at Nativity Parish, including a list of plants and insects native to N.J., see nativitychurchnj.org/Franciscan-earth-care-ministry/, or contact Kathleen Hendrick at [email protected].

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