A garden of blessings in Mount Pleasant

Barb Arland-Fye
Beatriz Toscano, a mother and an immigrant, accepts a garden kit from Jane Martin in the parking lot of First Presbyterian Church in Mount Pleasant. The garden kits are a project of Nutrimos, a sustaining ministry of IowaWINs (Iowa Welcomes its Immigrant Neighbors).

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Seeds planted and nurtured, now growing into young vegetable plants, spread their aroma during an outdoor blessing at which Bishop Thomas Zinkula presided on the grounds of First Presbyterian Church in Mount Pleasant. The plants, contained in one of 50 garden kits for immigrant families to grow their own produce, sat on a chair as if waiting for the bishop to sprinkle them with holy water on Pentecost.

The garden kits contain nine varieties of plants — summer squash, sweet pepper, jalapeno, serrano, cherry tomato, plum tomato, early tomato, cucumber and basil, and seeds such as Swiss chard, carrots and cilantro. Nutrimos, a Spanish word that means, “We Nourish,” created the garden kits to enhance the ability of immigrant families to supplement their cooking needs and build on self-sufficiency.

Nutrimos is a sustaining ministry of IowaWINs (Iowa Welcomes its Immigrant Neighbors), a commission of First Presbyterian Church of Mount Pleasant. Three years ago, IowaWINs turned its energy toward helping 32 immigrant families affected by an immigration raid at the cement plant in Mount Pleasant.


Nutrimos reaches out to the broader immigrant community to provide training and education in life and job enhancement skills, organize the gardening program, and implement a business-development component, said Jane Martin, who chairs the ministry’s board.

Mike Linnenbrink, a deacon candidate for the Diocese of Davenport and member of the Nutrimos board, helped to secure a $500 grant from the diocese for the ministry’s endeavors. “He came up with the idea for the blessing,” Martin said.

Linnenbrink invited Bishop Zinkula to participate in the blessing, and he accepted. “I wanted to support the Latino families who are living on the peripheries,” the bishop said. “I’m a farm kid. Back in the day when many more people were engaged in agriculture, the Church celebrated Rogation Days, which were days of prayer and fasting, to ask protection from disasters and to obtain a good and bountiful harvest.”

Barb Arland-Fye
Bishop Thomas Zinkula blesses vegetable plants outside First Presbyterian Church in Mount Pleasant to be distributed in garden kits to immigrant families.

This is the third year immigrant families are growing produce in the Fellowship Cup Com­munity Garden plots or in their home gardens through Nutrimos. However, “This is the first time we’ve done a blessing, which we think is a wonderful thing to come together as a community,” said Barbara Rainbow, another Nutrimos board member.

Tammy Shull, who chairs the IowaWINs Commission, welcomed the gathering and introduced the speakers: Bishop Zinkula; Pastor Trey Hegar of First Presbyterian Church; Barbara Rainbow; Father Paul Connolly, pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant; and Kent Ferris, director of Social Action for the Diocese of Davenport. Maria Mellado served as interpreter.

“Today we seek God’s blessing on these seeds and plants, on the crops they will produce, and on the hands that will care for them,” Bishop Zinkula prayed. “Jesus reminded us that unless the seed is planted in the earth and dies, it will not yield fruit. As these seeds grow and are cared for, may they be signs of the new life that comes from God.”

Pastor Hegar chose two verses from Jeremiah (29:5-7) for the blessing. “…But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

Following prayer petitions, Bishop Zinkula asked for God’s blessing “as we prepare to place these seeds and seedlings in the earth. May the care we show them remind us of your tender love for your people…”

Barbara Rainbow shared her thanks to the gathering and said, “With these blessings we have laid the foundation for growth and abundance for the plants and seeds, but also for each of us. May we accept God’s gifts as they come to us and use them for the purpose of union with our Creator.” She added, “Let us live together in love and peace. Let us help each other in difficulties. May we radiate truth and know that truth triumphs.”

Bishop Zinkula took out his travel-size holy water bottle, walked over to two cars with garden kits packed in the trunks and sprinkled them with holy water. He walked back to the gathering to sprinkle holy water on the seated garden kit and the people gathered.

Beatriz Toscano, a mother and an immigrant, picked up her garden kit to take home, thanking Martin and others. Each kit has information in Spanish to help families plant and grow their vegetables. All of the garden kits are now under the care of the immigrant families, Martin said.

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