June 24, 2016
Church of the Presentation in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, is a trailblazer when it comes to the environment. In 2013, they were officially certified as a “green parish” by GreenFaith, an interreligious organization that works to improve the environmental stewardship of houses of worship. Church of the Presentation was the first Catholic parish to be certified by GreenFaith, through a process that spanned multiple years and involved extensive efforts to improve sustainability, and continues to host educational programs multiple times a year for its parishioners on topics related to the environment, justice, and stewardship.
As part of ongoing efforts to live out principles of justice and stewardship, Presentation’s St. Francis Ministry spearheaded an effort to plant and maintain a parish vegetable garden. Drawing on the volunteer labor from parishioners, as well as an irrigation system donated by a local company, the parish completed the garden last year. Currently, the garden encompasses twenty beds and is tended by a total of about one hundred and fifty parishioners, working in teams under master gardeners who coordinate to ensure that the beds are appropriately planted, watered, and weeded. All community members, even those not directly involved with the garden, are encouraged to bring food scraps and yard waste from home to feed the compost bin which is used to fertilize the garden soil.
The parish garden is already an enormous success. In its first year, it yielded over one thousand pounds of produce in a dizzying variety, from potatoes and squash to salad greens and herbs. All produce is donated to serve the needy of the community, and the parish has relationships with several food bank and soup kitchens in the area. The garden even attracted attention from nearby news media, meriting features on the local CBS news radio station and its website.
For Fr. Bob Stagg, pastor of Church of the Presentation, the garden represents not only the community’s commitment to environmental stewardship and feeding the hungry but its efforts to find new ways to serve. “It creates more service opportunities for people,” he said. Families, seniors, and children are all able to work together to contribute to the well-being of those around them, creating stronger bonds of community both within and beyond the parish. The attention which the garden has drawn not only fosters local recognition of the church’s efforts, but also provides an opportunity for evangelization. The example of Presentation, through its efforts to improve sustainability and stewardship and to integrate those values with their service to the needy, is a powerful witness to the Catholic tradition’s commitment to care for the environment and for the poor and powerless in the community.
By: Katherine Brown, Los Angeles, CA