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Grow Fruit and Vegetables for Me! how a personal conversion led to a beautiful parish garden

The Laudato Si Garden, based in Aberystwyth in the Diocese of Menevia, was inspired after I witnessed the fullness of Eucharistic life and living faith as never seen before in Medjugorje while on pilgrimage in 2017. 

While walking across fields to the apparition site Podbrdo, I experienced our Queen of Peace, who bought me to the feet of Christ and a conversion of heart to the Catholic faith.

The following year, I was awoken early in the morning to the still small voice inside unmistakably asking: ” grow fruit and vegetables for me” which knocked me out of bed!

A man watering an allotment
Volunteers are integral to the garden project

Without any previous gardening experience, I was left quite daunted by this challenge. I approached our local Priest, Father Paul and shared my revelation, who listened attentively, and kindly gave us permission to use of part of the Presbytery gardens of Welsh Martyrs Church.  

I set out with just a spade in hand and some supportive friends and proceeded to start digging.

volunteers digging
Nick grabbed a spade and jumped right in!

I was led to Pope Francis’ encyclical letter  Laudato Si’ by a fellow parishioner, and was reminded that “our Mother Earth, sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs

Pope Francis invites us to see nature in all its magnificence, in which God speaks to us all individually through grace and granting us a glimpse of God’s infinite beauty and goodness though nature as we are all interconnected.

Our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.

I must point out that until 2017 I had been living without faith, far away from God and filled with unimaginable suffering due to spiritual poverty, family tragedy and addiction. The darkness of living a hopeless existence without light came clear in 2004 when I was curled up in a foetal position ready to end my life. I cried out loudly from the deepest part of my soul shouting out “God, I can’t carry on this way anymore please save me.”

Experiencing complete hopelessness, led me to seek a spiritual path and get help to overcome my afflictions. I moved to Wales, and so started the journey of turning my life over to God. 

4 people (an adult, two young adults and a child) are in a polytunnel
Getting all members of the community involved has been a huge success

Reading Laudato Si’ in 2018 really inspired me as I discovered I shared the same deep concern for issues as Pope Francis, scientists, and philosophers around the world.  They echoed the same concerns and questions on my own heart surrounding the environmental issues that humanity are facing and how radical change was needed.

...human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself...these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. This rupture is sin. The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. This in turn distorted our mandate to “have dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), to “till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15).

With God’s grace and an open heart, the Laudato Si Garden Project started to grow with a essence of capturing the outward sign of the inward grace that we all receive through our church.

After all “His eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of the world” (Rom 1:20). 

Through charitable works the garden has offered a place of refuge, safety and healing to many. It invites parishioners and the local community to come closer to God and the natural environment and experience the peace of the garden.

vegetables from the allotment (chard, potatoes, tomatoes)
Some of the garden's bountiful produce

Leaving part of the garden untouched, so wildflowers and herbs can grow, helps us raise our minds to God, creator of such beauty. So rather than a problem to be solved, allowing us to contemplate this joyful mystery, through prayer and thanksgiving.

The project has helped to make sustainable changes to the way we think about God’s creation; simply relying on recycled materials, donations and people’s kindness and generosity. With a few dedicated supporting volunteers,  we have made sustainable use of the natural resources on our doorstep away from consumerism.

Laudato Si’ encourages sustainability and promotion of organic growing to help reduce food poverty. Through becoming more sustainable, our parish now works in cooperation with nearby community projects and those who are experiencing poverty. The garden provides flowers to our church and a source of fresh organic vegetables & herbs which are distributed to those in need across the community.

More than anything our Laudato Si’ garden encourages our community and parish to come and work together with joy and open hearts and to “care for our common home”.

A man, in glasses and a hat, collecting apples

About the Author

Nick Howells is a parishioner of the Church of Welsh Martyrs, Aberystwyth, and has been involved in the running of their hugely successful parish garden since 2018. You can follow their progress on their Facebook page here.


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