Rice bowl pennies help fund community garden, greenhouse in Monroe
Editor's note: Catholic Relief Services President Carolyn Woo mentioned this grant during a press conference on World Food Day, Oct. 16. Watch video from that conference here. (Diocese of Charlotte is mentioned about 16 minutes into the video)
MONROE — The pennies you collect in those little paper rice bowls during Lent really do add up.
Thanks to money collected from Catholic Relief Services' Operation Rice Bowl, the Missionaries of the Poor are going to be able to provide fresh vegetables to more needy families in the Monroe area. The brothers received a $1,000 CRS mini-grant from the Diocese of Charlotte – as part of the rice bowl campaign that remains locally – to help build a hydroponic greenhouse and improve the community garden they started at the monastery last summer.
The Missionaries of the Poor and parishioners of neighboring parishes tend to the community garden, which when paired with a warehouse of donated supplies, provides food to more than 60 families each week. The six brothers from the Missionaries of the Poor, an international religious order of brothers dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor, have provided food and helped those in need in the diocese since 2008, said Brother Augusto Silot.
The MOP will soon be able to grow fresh and healthy vegetables all year in their own hydroponic greenhouse. The mini-grant was used to fund a portion of the materials and rock screenings to build the greenhouse and wood for boxes for the MOP community garden, Brother Augusto said. Many Charlotte parishes and families have added donations to complete the project.
The greenhouse and garden project in Monroe was initiated by several families from St. Mark Church in Huntersville. Parishioner Chris Hardin said the idea grew out of the brothers visiting his farm, Rivendell Farm, and as a way for families to minister together.
"It's very important to do family ministry," he said. "The teens are kind of quasi-leading this, which is really cool. About 70 percent of the time, they like it. It's a calling, and we do it to really help serve other people."
This project was developed to complement other service projects for "God's Poor in Monroe and Jamaica" that have been provided by parishes including St. Matthew, St. Ann and St. John Neumann in Charlotte, as well as Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury.
Volunteers started building the greenhouse in January, and they expect to have the project complete by the end of the year, Brother Augusto said.
Hardin said his family and about 10 others have been working on the greenhouse and the boxes once a month.
"We're doing this because it's a calling of our baptism. And eventually the parish will follow. We started as a group of three families and the parish has followed," Hardin said.
"No one has the time to do this, we just make the time. We just do it because it's the right thing to do. We've got a lot of blood, sweat and tears going into those soils."
The goal is to distribute fresh foods – including carrots, potatoes, broccoli, corn, sweet potatoes and greens – to more than 30 families, Brother Augusto said. A lot of the families they help have access only to a few types of foods, he said, and even when they find it, fresh produce can be costly. The greenhouse should allow the brothers to provide these families with a balanced and healthy diet. They also use the garden to show the families how to grow the vegetables themselves.
"The project is to provide both food and the means to produce food to increase the health, self-image and dignity of the poor." Brother Augusto said. "Most of these families are away from their native country and confused about the American way of life. Allowing these families to actively engage in raising their own food with the MOP will provide them food and a sense of family in Christ."
When completed, each community garden 12-by-20-foot box is expected to feed two or three families for eight months of the year using sustainable and "cold weather" methods.
"If all goes well, this initial project may be used as a 'pilot project' to plant similar community garden projects in Jamaica and Haiti," Brother Augusto said.
Working together on a small farming project such as this helps Catholics of different socioeconomic brackets realize that people are all "rich" and "poor" at the same time, he noted.
"By sharing our resources, strengths and weaknesses around a practical farming and food-producing activity, it can allow us all to become 'rich' in Christ. It also is a natural way to build community and family life by working on a common project and a common cause. By praying, working and sweating together, it quietly allows everyone to understand the causes of spiritual poverty that are common in many American families."
One of the most important aspects of the community garden project is that it allows Catholic youths and their parents to experience the "special charism" of the brothers, Brother Augusto added.
"The work of the Holy Spirit in the Missionaries of the Poor allows families to experience a oneness with God's poor and the simple joy that it provides. This oneness in the Holy Spirit helps everyone to see that we are all deeply dependent on Jesus – we just have different needs."
— Kimberly Bender, online reporter
Want to help?
The Missionaries of THE POOR, located at 1403 Griffith Road in Monroe, is in need of food, including canned meats and vegetables, toiletries and other necessities for its food pantry warehouse. To donate, call 704-635-8831. For more information, go to www.missionariesofthepoor.org.
Grant deadline nears
Oct. 15 is the postmark deadline for the receipt of applications in the next round of CRS ORB Mini-Grants, administered by Catholic Social Services' Office of Justice and Peace. Guidelines, eligibility criteria and applications are available at www.cssnc.org/cchdcrs.
FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy