Community Hopes Blessings Bring a Big Harvest

BY SHERLY JOURDAIN

CCSR holds 3rd annual “Blessing of the Soil”

On Saturday, the Catholic Community Services of Rockland (CCSR) held their 3rd annual ceremonial blessing of the community garden known as the Garden of Love. The blessing, known as the “Blessing of the Soil,” along with an unveiling of children’s artwork took place early afternoon within the Village of Haverstraw.

About 80 people attended the ceremony including religious leaders from other regions and it was primarily lead by Rev. Monsignor E. Weber who is the chairman of the CCSR board and pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish.

Rev. Weber dipped an olive branch in holy water and sprinkled it over the soil. Afterwards Rev. Weber and executive director of CCSR Martha Robles dug into the soil with a shovel for the first time symbolizing that the garden is now ready to be used to grow fresh fruits and vegetables.

Rev. Weber explained the significance of blessing the garden with holy water. “We have a special book of blessings and one of the blessings [is] for the fields and gardens…from Genesis God created the vegetation for our needs and we bless the soil to ask God assistance in our growth,” he said.

The community garden started four years ago with the help of the Haverstraw community center and local elected officials. The first year consisted of collecting the tools needed to plant until the second year when CCSR started growing various crops such as garlic, tomatoes, kale, cucumbers and more.

At the ceremony, CCSR revealed artwork from Rockland children which were placed on the entrance doors of the food pantry on each side of a central mural. “Last year we did an art contest. We wanted to get the kids involved. So we put a word out that we want kids to submit artwork depicting hunger in Rockland County” said Robles.

New City resident Barbara Letizia, 13, painted the mural in two months. “I really wanted to do something for the community…[This painting] means that no one can go hungry in Rockland. And everyone should be fed and gardens can feed people,” said Letizia, who wants to be a fashion designer someday.

Haverstraw resident Chelani Rivera also created a painting that was displayed at Saturday’s ceremony. It took Rivera four weeks to create a picture depicting the sun, various flowers and a butterfly flying over the flowers. The message she wanted to convey through her painting was “create a green environment. Don’t litter,” she said.

Since its inception in 1996 the CCSR has provided services that addresses homelessness, financial and debt issues, lack of nutrition or food, immigration status and more. CCSR has helped 93 families escape eviction and served 2,000 pounds of fresh vegetables from their Garden of Love to food pantry recipients.

Though CCSR is affiliated with the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, it is a community oriented organization that welcomes volunteers and workers and serves those in need from other faiths. CCSR is based in the Village of Haverstraw.