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SOUTH BOSTON -- Religious sisters have served generations of South Boston residents in a variety of ways -- from caring for the poor to providing childcare, education, or healthcare. To honor their legacy and create a place of tranquility in an impoverished urban neighborhood, St. Monica Parish dedicated part of its grounds, the new Sisters Garden of Peace and Prayer, to the religious sisters of South Boston in a ceremony on May 22.
Father Peter DeFazio, pastor of the South Boston Seaport Catholic Collaborative, said they had thought about "beautifying" the St. Monica campus for some time. He said the idea behind the garden was that "this community needs peace, this community needs healing, but they also need beauty."
Deacon Paul Kline of the Good Samaritan Ministry at Monica's Kitchen described the neighborhood as one "wounded by poverty and violence and many of the other social problems that can damage people's spirits."
"We felt it was important to expand our ministry beyond our gathering space in the lower hall by creating a place of beauty and peace, a place of serenity for our neighbors so that they might find a place to rest and listen for God's voice," he said May 28.
The Good Samaritan Ministry, which is supported by the Catholic parishes of South Boston, includes services for people struggling with food insecurity and those recovering from addiction and their families.
Deacon Kline said the ministry has been "greatly blessed" by the presence of religious sisters, "who have been our teachers by their example of humility and compassion and most importantly by the generosity of their spirit."
Father DeFazio also spoke highly of the religious communities that have served South Boston, such as the Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of St. Joseph, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, and the Carmelites of the Aged and Infirm.
"They've provided education to children; they've provided help for parents; they've provided help, up and down, for people all throughout the community, especially the poorest of the poor," Father DeFazio said.
Deacon Kline said that dedicating the garden to the sisters would "remind us of who we're called to be as we continue our ministry going forward, so that we're both honoring their legacy and drawing on their example as inspiration."
Approximately 20 religious sisters representing the different communities whose sisters have served in South Boston attended the garden's May 22 dedication ceremony, as well Delegate for Religious Sister Germana Santos, who serves as the cardinal's liaison with religious communities.
The ceremony began with a Liturgy of the Word held in St. Monica Church; then, participants went into the garden for additional prayers and remarks. Some sisters sprinkled holy water in different sections of the garden, which has statues of St. Francis and the Blessed Mother as well as a crucifix on the wall overlooking the grounds.
Sister Monica Daniel Madden, SNDdeN, offered a reflection on the garden's purpose, in which she added four more words to its name: "Our Place of Hope."
She spoke about the history of religious sisters in the community, listing some of the ministries they have performed over the years: educating children and adults, helping new mothers, supplying childcare for parents, helping immigrants with language skills, and nursing people at the end of life.
"It is, I believe, the wish of every sister gathered here today that, as you drive or walk by, you look at this 'holy ground' and remember that the sisters are praying for you and the community of South Boston," Sister Monica said.
She expressed her thanks for the support they have received and the honor granted them that day.
"We ask you to pray that we continue to be religious sisters who, with you, spread the good news that God is with us. May we continue to place our trust in him and in the goodness of one another," she said.
In his remarks during the ceremony, Deacon Kline said that the sisters see people "in ways that the world fails to see."
"When they sit and enjoy a meal with one of our lost and discouraged neighbors, you can see that person come back to life as they awaken to their beauty as a person of dignity and worth," he said.
He said that people who enter Monica's Kitchen seeking a meal often ask, "Is sister here?"
"How often that question must have been asked through the years by people in South Boston. Today, we thank and honor all the sisters who have always answered: Yes, friend, I am here," Deacon Kline said.