resistance gardening

By Julia Walsh, FSPA and Amy Nee

In a land of concrete and cold stone, restlessness for New Life stirs and shakes.

We fumble through work in an urban landscape. We speak to the oppressed and vulnerable, saying they are empowered to free others; they are powerful and rich beyond measure; they need to contribute to the betterment of the world. Yet, how can this sink in or resonate when they are overwhelmed by their own needs and struggles? We don’t have an answer, yet our voices ache from trying to obey the Spirit, to share convictions, to offer hope and healing.

This paradox mirrors what bruises the world: we who decry it are a part of the system of oppression. We are oppressed by our own participation in the torture, in the violence, in the poverty and discrimination. We are seeped in the things that we despise because we are a part of this world.

Yet we resist. We stutter and whisper “peace” while the world cheers “Fight! Fight!” The chant is global and it’s in the microcosms of high school hallways. We are conflicted by conviction, shadowed by shame. We have been socialized to believe that we are the best, or at least better than those who are different than us. We walk forward and proclaim that we believe in equality and justice in the ways that God has dreamed. Then, haunted by hypocrisy, we cry in confessionals with the realization of our own racist tendencies.

And, we look for cracks in the concrete; in the system, in ourselves, in the land that surrounds a school, broken like a battlefield. We don’t wait for permission and we find our own ways to be generous to the earth and people who we love. We drive through violent neighborhoods and buy seeds at Home Depot, stir up sick soil and pray over the life we try to plant.

Then, we step back and trust that God will guide the seeds to life. God will shed the Light and shower the water. We’ll have the strength to weed and pull out garbage that blows in. Along the way we are awed and surprised with the transformation and affirmation. Others shall be supportive, generous, and we’ll find Jesus hidden under tarps around corners that seem abandoned.

This is the story of the Genesis of the Hales Franciscan High School garden. It is also part of the larger story of the Truth of this earth that has God placed us on together.

(Cross-posted to: http://kairoschicago.blogspot.com/ )


Originally from Northeast Iowa, Sister Julia is a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, based in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Her love for God and God’s good world is manifested in her attempts to be an educator, a youth empower-er, an earth lover, and a peacemaker. She ministers at an inner-city Catholic high school in Chicago.

Amy Nee is a Catholic Worker, a gardener, a volunteer, a care-giver and Sister Julia’s friend.

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About Julia Walsh

Originally from Northeast Iowa, Sister Julia is a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, based in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Her love for God and God's good world is manifested in her attempts to be an educator, a youth empower-er, an earth lover, and a peacemaker. She ministers at a Franciscan retreat center in Wisconsin.

2 thoughts on “resistance gardening

  1. Sister Julia, Amy,

    Beautiful! The garden as metaphor is a very nice place to be. I too have taken that metaphor forward in my parish as we have a large field in back of our church. We have just broken ground on a small piece of the field of only 30×60 feet but there is much more we can do. My wife cautioned me about taking on any new ministries so I got a friend to head it up. It was the best thing that could have happened for him. His eyes were opened along with the half dozen people that are involved. I have no doubt others will join in the goodness. Everything we produce in our tiny way will be giving back from what we receive. I am witness to the transforming power of a tiny mustard seed sown in the right place. It is but a small piece of the cosmos but there is truth and love in the air. Your story tells me there is momentum in the broader idea I have been thinking of that I call Acres for Mustard Seeds.

    Peace,
    Jerry

  2. I’ve always lived around gardeners. When I was young, my mom tended a large garden across the street from our home. (She even grew popcorn!) As I have lived in Omaha and Chicago, the local Catholic Workers have gardened. When I visited the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in April, one Lakota person talked about the importance of teaching gardening to young people on the rez. As I prepare to move to South Dakota, I think that it’s time that I start gardening! Your reflection reminds me of its importance: it’s a creative act, a gift of life amid a violent world, a collaborative effort with God and others. Thanks for sharing this beautiful and honest reflection with us.

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