Prayers for a bountiful harvest at Sacred Heart

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2014

There was a time when the rhythm of life turned with the cycle of the seasons, from seed-time to harvest.
Members of Sacred Heart Catholic Church first planted a parish garden two years ago. Called The Lord’s Bounty, its purpose was to grow fresh, organic produce for the needy.
“The community garden is for any person in need,” said Gretchen McKivergan, a member of the Lord’s Bounty ministry team. “It’s not just for Sacred Heart parishioners, although we do serve them.”
McKivergan said the ministry has delivered produce to the Salvation Army, Nazareth Children’s Home and Rowan Helping Ministries, among others, as well as individual families in need.
This year, Father Jason Barone offered a special way of asking for God’s blessing on the garden.
Wednesday, Barone and about 30 others took part in a procession to the garden for the blessing, followed by a Rogation Mass.
They were joined by Father Samuel Weber, a Benedictine monk from St. Meinrad’s Archabbey in Indiana, who acted as cantor.
Singing prayers and asking the saints to pray for God’s help and mercy, Barone and the congregation gathered around the garden rows.
Barone prayed traditional Latin prayers asking God to bless the garden, then walked through the rows, sprinkling holy water on each of the beds where tomatoes, squash, strawberries and other plants are already growing, as well as on the fruit trees nearby.
“This is a tradition that dates back to the year 474 in France, and was celebrated universally in the Catholic church as of the 9th century,” said Barone, Sacred Heart’s parochial vicar, or assistant pastor.
Barone said the name “Rogation Day” comes from the Latin word rogare, meaning “to ask.”
In the traditional Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, Barone said, on Rogation days priests and congregations would pray for God’s mercy — in particular, asking God to avert natural disasters and to bless their farms and crops.
With the sweeping changes of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church dropped Rogation days from the calendar in 1969.
Since Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 decree allowing wider celebration of the older rites, there has been a resurgence in those traditions. Sacred Heart offers a Latin Mass on Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons.
Wednesday’s Rogation Day service fell on a day when, centuries ago, priests would have led similar processions into the fields to bless the new crops.
“It was a way to keep a tradition going, and a way of blessing a very important project at the church and the hard work that made it possible,” Barone said.
This was the second time Father Barone had celebrated a Rogation Mass, the first being at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Neb.
Parishioners, especially those who work with The Lord’s Bounty ministry, said they enjoyed being a part of the celebration.
“It’s a beautiful way to express our solidarity with God’s creation, and with each other,” said Mary Blanton, one of the garden volunteers.
“There’s a real peace and beauty about that place that makes working there a real joy,” Blanton said.
There’s also the satisfaction of knowing that the food helps those in need, especially those who might not be able to afford fresh vegetables and fruits.
Among the fresh foods volunteers grow are tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, broccoli and peppers of different types.
Volunteers work in the garden, growing the plants and then picking, sorting and washing the produce.
Sister Mary Robert Williams, pastoral associate for Sacred Heart parish, is one of those who helps deliver the garden produce.
“When I give (the food) to them, they thank me,” Williams said, “and when I see them later, they’re very appreciative.”
Williams said some of those who’ve received food from the garden talk of the recipes they’ve been able to make with the donated food.
Rose LaCasse, one of the Lord’s Bounty ministry volunteers, said it’s been encouraging to see how the outreach has strengthened since 2012.
“The transformation each year has been wonderful. People have become more skilled and have produced more (food),” LaCasse said.
“It was a very beautiful procession, I thought, and to end up at the garden, to see the fruits of the fields provided by God, brought it all together,” Blanton said.
Barone said being able to offer a Rogation Mass and blessing formed “a link in the chain of tradition from time immemorial.”
“And it’s an honor to be able to bring these rich traditions to Salisbury in 2014,” Barone said.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.