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Priests till soil, reap the harvest

ardening can be hard work. But for many the work is relaxing – even spiritual.

Father James Kramper – pastor of St. Theresa of Avila Parish in Clearwater, St. Peter de Alcántara in Ewing and St. John the Baptist in Deloit Township of rural Holt County – said working the soil on one’s hands and knees can bring a person closer to God.

"My grandfather’s favorite line was ‘If you’re close to the soil, you’re close to God," he said.

Father Kramper, who grew up on a farm between Ponca and Jackson in the northeast corner of Nebraska, established community gardens at St. Theresa and St. Peter.

Father James Keiter, associate pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Fremont, said growing up on a farm and now helping with St. Patrick’s community garden help him better appreciate many of Jesus’ parables. And he uses garden analogies to describe the work of the saints.

Gardening and sanctity both require diligence, he said. "The saints did not become saints overnight. Each day they sought to weed out sinfulness in a lifelong journey."

St. Patrick preschoolers planted walls of 7- to 8-foot sunflowers to create an outdoor reading room in the parish’s community garden. And in the process, they learned something about God, Father Keiter said.

"They see how God takes something so small and makes it big," Father Keiter said. "They see how a garden can multiply God’s gifts to benefit the rest of creation."

Father Keiter sees personal benefits, too, relaxing while working in the garden on summer evenings. "It’s fun getting a little dirty."