With smiling faces and upraised hands, a host of new Canadians gathered Wednesday to give blessings to the land that will feed them and many others this fall when the crops are harvested.
Organizers at the Mercy Centre of Ecology and Justice on Mount Scio Road in St. John’s and more than 20 people from the Language Training School for New Canadians walked the grounds and blessed the flower pots, water and the garden in a ceremony called the Blessing of the Land for Planting.
“Many of these people come to Newfoundland and Labrador with nothing. In many of their countries, these people were farmers, and being able to come here and work the land gives them a sense of pride,” said Sister Mary Tee, building director for the Mercy Centre.
“Despite the fact they are halfway around the world, they say these crops are all grown under the same sun, as they would be at home.”
The new Canadians till and plant their crops at the Mercy Centre. Once the crops are grown and harvested, they take them back to the Association for New Canadians and separate them and bag them to be shared among the many people there.
“Today is the summer solstice, and among the blessings we are celebrating include health, family, love, joy and peace,” Tee said.
The students from the language school appreciate the healing benefits and the peaceful energy that nature offers while they work the garden.
They are grateful to celebrate the blessing of the land in preparation for planting and to celebrate the fruit of their work at the harvest festival, when they delight in sharing the fresh produce with the other families at the school.
“This is an opportunity for them — some of them who had been farmers in their past lives — for them to feel at home and have good memories of that,” said Grace Okewara, teacher of Level II education with the Association for New Canadians in St. John’s.
“To see them farm, to grow vegetables, brings joy to them and the talent they show in the fields,” she added.
The yields are generally good and there are many varieties of vegetables grown.
“They struggle with life at times, but coming into the fields helps them. Getting this opportunity from the sisters to help the school is special,” Okewara said.
“There are so many blessings for them here.”