A Gift of Wonder: Discovering the “worth of each thing”

By Sister Suzanne Donner, OP 

“Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature (creation).” Pope Francis—Laudato Si’ 

What a gift it has been to work in the gardens at Jubilee Farm for the past 18 years! My knowledge of gardening when arriving at the farm, was what I had learned from my father while growing up in Crystal Lake, Ill., on almost an acre of land. One of the best lessons my father taught us was to respect Nature. We had a vegetable garden almost every year and we enjoyed the bounty that it brought our family. 

My first couple of years on the farm I gave tours and helped with retreats for students from grade school to high school. I tended the small gardens. I had to acquire some creativity on my part to get them somewhat organized. 

Each year my experience and knowledge of gardening began to expand. My sister, Maryann Sexton, became my mentor because she achieved her degree as an “Advanced Master Gardener, Greenhouse Nurseryman Professional.” She began to work for the Botanical Gardens in St. Louis, Missouri. Many times, when Maryann worked gardens in various places, I had the opportunity to be with her and learn. I was grateful for these experiences and the expertise she shared with me. 

This “true gift of wonder” surrounds us everywhere we look and I am in awe at how profoundly we are united with all God’s creation.

Over the years, the gardens at Jubilee Farm expanded to twenty or more gardens both large and small. These gardens included herbs, vegetables, and flowers. Later they also included trees, bushes, vines, grasses and shrubs. If I didn’t know the answer for something in gardening, I used the computer to do research to find out or I asked the master gardener, Maryann. 

Before long, I knew that I had the ability to grow seedlings in our fifty-foot long greenhouse. I hoped this would be a money maker for the farm and, eventually, the growing and selling of seeds was a success! 

It was in the greenhouse where I began to discover and contemplate the miracle of seed planting, the beauty of all creation that surrounds us, and how much we are connected with creation. 

As I began my plantings in the greenhouse, which was around the end of February or the beginning of March, I was caught up with the importance of each item I was working with: potting soil, seeds, water, sunlight, air, and compost. The texture of the organic potting soil was soft and eager to receive a seed. I would remove my gloves to be able to truly feel what the seed might be feeling in this life-giving soil. The elements of water, air, and sunlight were already there. On occasion, I sometimes needed to use the “growing lights.” 

Each January, I couldn’t wait to see the variety of seeds and their pictures in the seed catalogs. It was like being in a candy store! I wanted them all! 

As the seed packets arrived each year, I felt like I was welcoming a new family of generations. Each seed was so different in shape, size, and color. It reminded me of our own society and different cultures. 

Then came the time for planting, nurturing, and watching each seed as it was placed in the soil. It was a profound miracle for me to watch the tiny seed’s life-giving energy and potential growth each day. I found myself urging the seed to produce by using my own positive speaking voice and using the music from the radio to enhance its growth. Again, I felt I was in unity with its Creator, by helping it reach its full potential. 

When the seed reached its glorious beauty, I truly experienced its love and thanks for its Creator and for me personally. I was proud, like a parent, to witness this “true gift of wonder.” 

I will miss the opportunity of working the land at Jubilee Farm. I realize, however, that this “true gift of wonder” surrounds us everywhere we look and I am in awe at how profoundly we are united with all God’s creation.


What is Earth Day?

Earth Day, celebrated April 22 each year, is widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, marked by more than a billion people every year as a day of action to change human behavior and create global, national and local policy changes.

Now, the fight for a clean environment continues with increasing urgency, as the ravages of climate change become more and more apparent every day.

As the awareness of our climate crisis grows, so does civil society mobilization, which is reaching a fever pitch across the globe today. Disillusioned by the low level of ambition following the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015 and frustrated with international environmental lethargy, citizens of the world are rising up to demand far greater action for our planet and its people.

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