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Catholic gardening society takes root

Sustainable community gardens are not just for hippies.

Some local Catholics say holistic locally-grown gardens rather mix well with the truths of the faith.

This spring, some 20 faithful are busy cultivating a Lakewood garden that produces local food supply for members and helps spread the idea of Catholic sustainability.

The St. Isidore Society, named after the patron of farmers, was started by 20-year-old Malcolm Schluenderfritz last year.

“There’s plenty of natural gardening groups but not specifically Catholic ones,” said Schluenderfritz, a parishioner at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Littleton. “I always loved gardening and had an interest in natural building and alternative energy … but there’s not a group in the area that’s working on those things from a Catholic point of view. So I decided to fill that void.”

Now the soil is ripe for the group to begin planting vegetables, fruits, flowers and trees. Last week, volunteers helped plant trees on the three-quarter of an acre garden near Wadsworth Boulevard and First Avenue. The group also wants to construct bee hives, start a seed library and build an aquaponics system, an integrated place where fish and plants grow together.

“It’s been exciting and an eye-opener,” said Marilane McCarthy, a member of the group and parishioner at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. “We are learning a great deal.”

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She added that the garden has encouraged community among the neighbors.

The urban community garden is open to all those wish to be good stewards of the earth. Members are asked to dedicate at least four hours a month to the garden to have an equal share of the farm’s produce, Schluenderfritz said.

The members’ work is guided by the principles of permaculture, the science or art of creating human settlements modeled on creation.

“It thus copies the work of God, the great designer,” Schluenderfritz wrote on the society’s website. “It thus allows us to become sub-gardeners, sub-creators in God’s garden, instead of obliterating his plans and pridefully replacing them with our own idea of reality.”

He explained that permaculture also studies primitive men who unconsciously modeled their homes and farms to the patterns of the world around them.

Rather than a permaculture garden commonly influenced by the concepts of the New Age movement in the 1970s, Schluenderfritz said he turned to Catholic teaching for guidance on starting a community food supply.

Schluenderfritz said he found inspiration in the writings of G.K. Chesterton and Pope John Paul II who discussed Catholic social teaching on the principle of subsidiarity. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Church has elaborated this principle, which is opposed to collectivism and sets limits for state intervention in local affairs.

It states that a higher order should not interfere with community of a lower order, but rather support it with the purpose of the common good.

McCarthy said it’s showed her an appreciation of agriculture and has spread knowledge about the importance of local sustainability.


St. Isidore Society
The St. Isidore Society will celebrate its growing season this year on Rogation Day, April 25, the traditional day when land was blessed by a priest. Members will plant trees and prepare for the evening when faithful will process around the garden and a priest will give a blessing. A potluck will follow.

Learn more about the society online at saintisidoresociety.wordpress.com.


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