Laudato Si Garden project bridges ecology and community


photo by Simon Kierulf

Jessica Radogno, Bianca Ortiz, Natalie Niccolai, Sister Pat Bergen at the Quinn Center.

SJ Weidner

   In his 2015 encyclical titled “Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home,” Pope Francis focused on the Catholic Church’s stance on environmental issues and community engagement. From the Vatican to the Sisters of Saint Joseph and the larger Naz family, many have been inspired by this writing to pay more attention to not only how we treat the earth, but also how we serve our neighbors.

   Sister Pat Bergen, CSJ, along with Community Builders for Peace including seniors Bella Sliwka, Natalie Niccolai, Bianca Ortiz, Jazmin Galan, sophomores Sydney Santiago and Molly McNamara, and freshmen Olivia Austin, Audrey Moster, and Aahlya Coyotl, have been especially inspired by both Pope Francis’ encyclical and the Sisters of Saint Joseph’s commitment to care for the earth and the dear neighbor and have brought a new initiative to the community: the Laudato Si Garden Project.

   Community Builders for Peace, alongside Sister Pat and Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jessica Radogno have been working with students to tend the gardens at the Quinn Center located at Saint Eulalia Parish in Maywood and will continue their work throughout the summer. So far, a dedicated group have been preparing the soil at the Quinn Center garden and have started to raise vegetables and herbs in their homes, which will be planted at the garden on May 22nd. 

   The garden at the Quinn Center will produce fresh food for the poor and raise plants that are native to the geographical location. Radogno points out the need for fresh food at this location in particular because the Quinn Center is located in a food desert. The USDA defines food deserts as areas where people have limited access to a variety of healthy and affordable food. With the help of this garden, that will hopefully change.

   This garden will also be officially designated as a Laudato Si Garden on May 22, to celebrate the end of the fifth year anniversary of the encyclical.

   Sister Pat said, “The Laudato Si Garden Project is an Archdiocesan-wide project to help people of the Chicago Archdiocese realize the global Catholic project to become the tipping point for climate change in the world within seven years.” 

   The seven goals of the project include Response to the Cry of the Earth, Response to the Cry of the Poor, Ecological Economics, Adoption of Simple Lifestyles, Ecological Education, Ecological Spirituality, and Community Engagement and Participatory Action.

   It is expected that the vegetables and herbs grown at the garden will be distributed to over 700 families who are unemployed and visit the Quinn Center for food every week. Freshman Audrey Moster added, “I am hoping that this service project will help the community’s hunger rates go down and help bring peace and stability to the families in need.”

   Even though it seems small, the Quinn Center Laudato Si Garden has a large impact not only on the community, but also on the fight against climate change. Planting native plants promotes pollination and wildlife sustainability, and it also encourages others to grow their own fresh food.     

   The Quinn Center garden represents one of the main goals of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si: integral ecology—all life is interconnected. Sister Pat said, “Since what we do to the soil has an effect on all things because we are one and interconnected, we are also contributing to the cry of the poor.”