“The Story of St. Peter’s Gardens”
Twenty-five years ago when the Jesuits came to St. Peter Catholic Church, the backyard was covered by a blanket of broken black top which served as our humble parking lot. Tim von der Embse, a long-standing parishioner had a vision and a passion to make a green space for prayer, meditation, and fellowship. In 1994 the opportunity arose for Tim to share his plan with the priests and the executive committee of the parish. The vision was well received but would not be implemented for thirteen years. The re-development of properties surrounding our church caused the garden to be placed on hold. Other factors that impeded the creation of St. Peter’s gardens included renovations to the church, uncertainty of parking, First Union’s ( a.k.a. Wachovia now Wells Fargo) demolition of surrounding buildings, development of the adjacent property which included the underground parking deck, the above ground park known today as “The Green”, and the building that houses Benedict Hall. Finally in late 2001, the master plan that was developed to update and preserve St. Peter’s environment, adding a columbarium and including the garden plan. The new construction project was launched in 2002.
In 2006 a local group of business people known as the Green Industry Council (GIC) who had been meeting in the newlyrenovated Biss Hall decided to implement Tim‘s idea as a service project. And voila, the gardens of St. Peter were no longer a vision but a plan in action. The landscape designers coordinated by Tim refashioned his 1994 plan. Landscape companies, nurseries and local material suppliers provided labor, soil, plants and hardscape materials. Then one morning in April 2007, after the black topped area had disappeared during construction and piles of excavated dirt replaced it, the GIC volunteers took action busying about to reclaim God’s earthly features. By two weeks end, the St. Peter’s backyard had been greened and a new useful space created for the parish!
Next came the beginnings of a St. Peter’s ministry. In time it would be named the St. Fiacre Ministry, inspired by the patron saint of gardeners. Over the next four years volunteer work crews labored to transform the front and side areas into beautifully leafy beds. Garden parties of parishioners convene seasonally to maintain and enhance the gardens. The continued mission of the St. Fiacre Ministry is to nurture the gardens as a place to rest, prayerfully ponder and engage in fellowship while enjoying its splendor.