If you’re driving down Junction Street to come visit us at Holy Redeemer in Southwest Detroit, you probably won’t be thinking much about the Garden of Eden. However, if you park in view of our church’s glorious copper dome, step out of your car, take in a deep breath of air from the panadería (cinnamon-sugar) and taquería (carne asada), walk across the blacktop that doubles as our playground, and arrive at the far back corner of our school, then you might start to think differently.
Five metal beds, salvaged from a 1950s era Detroit automotive factory, are filled to the brim with compost and unruly rows of vegetable plants. My middle school students and I tend this garden with much love. We planted seeds in the winter when there was still snow on the ground and the mornings were dark. The seeds sprouted, spring came, and we planted them outside. Soon, our lettuce will be ready to harvest, the radishes will be pink and bulging, and the beans and squashes will be blossoming.
I grew up watching my grandfather coax tomatoes and basil out of tiny cinder box planters in the middle of South Philadelphia. The process takes gentle effort, patience, and reverence at the mystery of God’s work: “The seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how” (Mark 4:27). It brings me great joy to watch this little school garden spring into life, transformed with God’s help. Each sprout reminds us of Eden and gives us hope for redemption. If you find an eighth-grader working in the garden, they might tell you about our dream of housing chickens and a goat there someday. We spend plenty of time together and have shared many dreams.
When I’m not outside with the vegetables, I’m upstairs in my second-floor classroom− a garden too, of sorts, where seeds in hearts are planted, tended, and begin to grow. The real lessons are about perseverance, confidence, and friendship with God and each other. We learn those every day while it looks like we’re learning about fractions, geometry, and equations.
The others on the team here are busy tending gardens too. Sr. Gianna teaches fifth grade; Sr. Kateri is the principal; Sr. Helen does pastoral work; Sr. Mary Peter sees clients for counseling; the priests serve the parish; the brothers work; and the seminarians study. We come together for prayer, meals, support, and encouragement.
The team is preparing for our garden to triple in size. This summer, as part of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s plan to group multiple parishes and pastors together or combine parishes under a single pastor, SOLT will take charge of a “Family of Parishes” that includes Holy Redeemer and two neighboring parishes. We are looking forward to the opportunities for discipleship and new life that this change will bring. Before you get in your car to leave our little corner of God’s new creation, be sure to come across Junction Street and knock on our door. We’d love to share some salad with you!
Sr. Mary Lauren Adderly, SOLT is from New Jersey. She studied Biology at Villanova University, and professed first vows in 2020. She currently teaches middle school Math and Science at Holy Redeemer Grade School in Detroit.