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Weavings Reflection: July 2023

Weavings is a monthly reflection that is the collective effort of the Wheaton Franciscan Covenant Companions and Sisters to provide spiritual nourishment that helps us feel God’s presence in daily living and invite an openness to God.

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The St. Clare Garden

By Shirley Justin-Wolff, Covenant Companion

I am not a creative or artistic person, but thanks to my mother’s love of gardening, I developed an interest in plants and flowers and learned early on that with keen observation, healthy plants, a little nurturing, and a lot of patience, I could create something beautiful for my eyes to behold. And so, from a few house plants to a small vegetable garden, to my backyard landscaping, I’ve come to appreciate the gift gardening is to me.

Each season gardening gives me something to anticipate. It challenges my patience and commitment but rewards me with hours of relaxation, peace, and contentment. Most importantly, it is my spiritual connection to the Earth and the Divine. 

In the Spring of 2021, I was honored with an invitation to join the Vision Circle for the St. Clare Garden. The circle was created for the purpose of exploring garden elements, symbolism, and general ambiance as it relates to capturing the spirit of St. Clare, and with the intent to include representatives of the entire Wheaton Franciscan Community. A generous donation to the Tau Center was the catalyst for the proposal to create a contemplative garden to be used for Tau Center programs and the Wheaton Franciscan Community. The proposal was met with enthusiastic support by the Sisters’ Regional Leadership Team who provided matching funds.  

A Project Team consisting of landscape architects, contractors, and vendors, convened to work on the location, design, and construction of the garden. Construction began in 2022 with the installation of hardscape and initial plantings of large trees and shrubs. Our dreams materialized with the presence of the beautiful water feature, as well as areas for large and small group gatherings, creating an oasis for individuals to contemplate and absorb the beauty of nature and the Spirit of Clare. Along with her spirit, the four elements of nature: earth, air, fire, and water are represented throughout the garden. 

The final phase is currently unfolding: the berms and woody plants are in place, perennials are being planted, and furniture is being added. We have been blessed with additional donors to allow us to include a labyrinth and patio planters. Fundraising continues to augment beds in the future. Conversations continue to add the St. Clare element once the garden is completed. 

My journey with the St. Clare Garden has been an immeasurable gift. It has enabled me to deepen my relationship with the Divine as I research plants and learn about their varieties, characteristics, and habitats. I am more conscious of plants of all kinds and investigate them with curiosity. This winter, what to me always appeared as bare and drab trees, magically emerged as works of art, with their unique branching patterns, balanced symmetry, and varied bark textures. I stand in awe of this natural beauty and the goodness of our Creator. What touches my heart most are the Wheaton Franciscan staff whom I’ve worked with and come to know these past three years. In them, I feel the true spirit of this community. We collaborate with mutual respect, trust, open communication, and enthusiasm for this project.

Their dedication to the community, expertise, creativity, and hard work has made this sacred space come to life with love and beauty. For me, the St. Clare Garden has been an extension of “peace, hope, and healing in the world.” My hope is for all who enter, they find the same. 

I am grateful Sister Pat was able to contribute to the conception of this garden and just days before she passed, she was able to spend peaceful moments in its midst.

1 thought on “Weavings Reflection: July 2023”

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    Thank you, Shirley! I appreciate your contribution to this beautiful creation. So grateful to you, the team, and our staff! It is so much fun to watch it grow and blossom into a such a gorgeous and peaceful place! Thank you for the beautifully written article, too!!

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