Promised Land

By the time you read this, 28 raised beds filled with garden soil should be lined up in the rectory lawn. (Unless it rained, then they’ll be there next weekend.)

The Promised Land project is well underway and we could not be more delighted by how it is going.

In case you missed it: For the summer of 2019, a community garden called Promised Land will be created on the Cathedral grounds. Raised growing beds will be built in front of and beside the rectory house.  Volunteer gardeners will adopt the beds and cultivate a    vegetable crop.  All food harvested from the gardens will be donated to local food banks, shelters, soup kitchens and other social agencies that serve people in need.

At the end of March, we scheduled our first committee meeting.  We’d solicited for help through Facebook and this column.  A few people had asked questions,  and I’d heard a few people say they wanted to help.  But 20 minutes prior to the meeting, I sat in an empty room and worried.  What if nobody came?

I shouldn’t have worried.  By 7:00 pm, the table was filled with kind-hearted folks who were eager to get this project started.  As I rattled through the list of jobs to be done, hands were quick to be raised and plans were made. 

The best part of the meeting was the new faces.  In 14 years, I’ve meet a lot of St. Ray’s people.  And in the great Joliet tradition, if I have haven’t met someone, odds are I know his cousin, sister or old boss, so for me to go into a meeting with new folks who are eager to get involved, it’s downright thrilling.

Thanks to these folks for stepping up: Joy Alwan, Elaine Armstrong, Kathy Blotnik, Tony Gavlin, Katie Homolka, Emmanuel Leonardo, Carla Montagano Liburdi, Ken McCafferty, Chris McCafferty, Christine Robinson, Elizabeth Savant, Michele Savant, Danielle Schumacher, Amy Schwert and Mary Stacel.

In two meetings, the committee hashed out the basic elements of the program with    outstanding help from Nancy Kuhajda.   Nancy is the Program Coordinator for the Master Gardeners who work through the   University of Illinois Extension Service.  Once she figured out we weren’t going to be    deterred by her Pitfalls of Starting a Community Garden speech, she has been extremely generous with her time and knowledge.

A few weeks ago, we had an orientation meeting for the gardeners who have already committed to adopt a plot (MORE NEW FACES!).  Nancy did a phenomenal job providing them with the knowledge they need to succeed.  In addition, Nancy pledged some of her Master  Gardeners to provide ongoing support throughout the growing season.

We need more gardeners!  Using the if-you-build-it-they-will-come philosophy, we put in 28 gardens.  Many are spoken for, but we can find a nice one for you if you are interested.

We are looking for individuals, families, groups or multi-families to commit to planting, nurturing and harvesting one 4 foot x 8 foot raised bed.  All plants, seeds and tools will be provided. 

Gardeners are required to tend their gardens weekly and to keep their beds weed free and watered throughout the growing season.  The beauty of this is you can tailor this service project to your schedule.  Work can be done at any time during daylight hours.  And if you are away, other gardeners will help out.

When harvested, gardeners are asked to deliver fresh produce to the recipients.  We’ll share more good news about this aspect of the    project in coming weeks.

To adopt one of the remaining beds, please go to and complete the gardener’s application.  Planting Day is May 18, so you’ll want to commit before then.

One last delight:  Under the direction of junior high science teacher Amy Schwert, the school is getting involved in this project.  A whole bunch of classes have been growing seedlings for planting in the   garden since March.  After spring break, the junior high will start    composting from the lunch waste, and in mid-May, Mrs. Schwert will have a class plant a pollination garden in the large flower bed to the right of the rectory front door.

Please pray for the success of this program and send more gardeners our way!

Eileen Hooks Gutierrez
Director of Development,
815-722-6653, extension 217









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