ORLANDO | Good Shepherd is growing a garden of love thanks to alumni Giraldo “Tito” Alfonso (class of ’96) and Luke, a 2017 Good Shepherd Catholic School graduate who chose to make it his Eagle Scout project. Bishop John Noonan blessed the collaborative effort, which enables families to leave a legacy of memories while providing a sustainable garden of strawberries and blueberries for all to enjoy.
The garden was the brainchild of Reba Fritz, Good Shepherd’s development director, past principal Jayme Hartman and Jonathan LaManna. Luke, a junior at Timber Creek High School now, led the endeavor as his Boy Scouts of America Eagle Project for Troop 25 in Orlando, installing the irrigation and working with the Alfonso family to establish the hydroponic garden. “We’re building life, making it more sustainable and making it a model for other schools in the district,” he said. “It’s better for the environment.”
Alfonso, who now has a student at Good Shepherd, came with his family to witness share in the blessing. “It’s important to give back to the place where I grew up and do my part to see this place grow and be as important to this next generation as it was to me.”
Fritz explained how the garden will continue to be a learning tool. Sixth and seventh-graders planted the garden and will maintain it. Science teachers will integrate the garden into their curriculum in the spring.
Although she could not be present, Gloria del Orbe, the school’s current principal sent a message stating, “The living, growing, blooming garden provides a long-lasting tribute for years to come. It is a meaningful way to remember a loved one who has passed or a teacher who inspired and influenced you or your child … There is no limit to your choice of remembrance. May you find joy in knowing that someone special or a significant occasion will never be forgotten at Good Shepherd Catholic School.” Plaques honoring mentors, family members and special occasions already line the fence.
With flowers were already blooming on the strawberry plants, Missionary of LaSalette pastor, Father Jim Henault, stood alongside Bishop Noonan and helped him bless the garden. Blueberries and strawberries will be harvested when ripe and used for baked goods, which will be sold to help the school. Father Henault, C.S.s.R. did promise Bishop Noonan and Henry Fortier, superintendent of schools, first fruits. He added a note of thanks “for all that will watch the magic and wonders of nature, and most especially of our God, growing things in our midst.”
Reminding those present of God’s call to care for creation, Bishop Noonan said, “Pope Francis always tells us we have to be kind and gentle with Mother Earth because it is our home. Today we honor in a special way what the earth gives us—food, life, nourishment and all the important things.” He noted the Memory Garden is a place that will “remind us that God gives us many special blessings.”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic November 26, 2019