Parish lives out Gospel through community garden project

Thursday 16th September 2021

A parish community is putting its faith into action by answering Pope Francis’ call to ecological and social conversion.

Holy Trinity Parish in Walkden began work on a beautiful community garden three years ago, after parish priest Monsignor Canon John Dale decided to clear the overgrown, derelict space behind Christ the King Catholic Church and transform it into a nature hotspot for the local community.

Aware of a need to tackle social isolation and loneliness, Mgr John identified an opportunity to use the garden as a relaxing, welcoming space for all, particularly for those in care homes or living with dementia.

According to the ‘Greening Dementia’ report from Natural England, engaging with the natural environment provides myriad physical and mental benefits for people living with dementia. These include improved sleep, dietary intake, and activity, enhanced awareness and joy through multi-sensory engagement, increased verbal expression, and improved memory.

In order to create the best experience for their visitors, the volunteer team got in touch with a representative from the Alzheimer’s Society, who worked closely with them to develop the project.

Parishioner and volunteer Joan Ainsworth said: “His insight was brilliant and helped us understand a little more about how to speak to people with dementia and how to help them. We have some experience because our parents had it but to get these outside tips was really useful.

Fully transformed, the garden now provides an oasis of calm, full of the sights, sounds, and smells of nature; a place where visitors can sit and connect with the earth, its Creator, and each other.

Maria Devine, another parishioner and volunteer, said: “If this had been here when my mum had dementia, I would have brought her here. It’s a good way for people with dementia to meet others, to interact with someone other than their carer. But it’s not just for people with dementia, it’s for their carers too.”

Joan added: “Sometimes as a carer you can feel quite isolated and it would be nice to meet other carers, to chat with people who understand.”

Hoping to be a peaceful retreat for the whole community, Trinity Garden volunteers have worked hard to reach out to others, welcoming visits from nearby Walkden Manor care home and hosting a magical Christmas event that saw children from the local school come to sing Christmas carols.

Maria said: “We want the garden to be a special place for the whole community. We’ve tried really hard to reach out to the people and our biggest aim is to get more people to come, not just parishioners but people outside the Church too.

“It’s for people who have nowhere to go, who are lonely, people who are isolated, and don’t go outside. That’s what Pope Francis teaches us.”

Calling humanity to ecological and social conversion is at the very heart of Pope Francis’ message to the world.

In his compelling encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis writes: “When we feel that God is calling us to intervene with others in these social dynamics, we should realize that this too is part of our spirituality, which is an exercise of charity and, as such, matures and sanctifies us.”

Highlighting the “abandonment of the elderly” as a symptom of our throwaway culture – a culture that has poisoned our care for the environment and each other – Pope Francis calls us to look to the margins of society, to reach out to those in need, and offer a hand of friendship, something the Trinity Garden is eager to embrace.

Maria explained: “It’s a big part of our faith, it’s where all this stems from. It’s in the Gospels: “love thy neighbour”. This is our way of living the Gospel. As Christians, we have to live out our faith and make it work in different ways, and this is all part of that.”

Fellow parishioner Carole Cain added: “It’s the Holy Spirit in action. We can’t just leave our faith at the altar; we need to reach out to others, and we should do it with a smile on our face.”

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Tagged | Around the Diocese | Catholic Church | Environment | faith in action | Laudato Si Centre | Parishes | Society

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