Tree Planting at Holy Nativity Women’s Monastery

Parishioners, nuns, and guests planted a little alley in front of the Monastery

[Dallas, TX] The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Monastery is an Orthodox Christian women’s monastic community located in Kemp, TX, within the Diocese of the South, Orthodox Church in America. It is closely affiliated with the St. Seraphim Cathedral in Dallas. The Monastery has been here approximately for 4 years. It is growing and now becoming well established.

With the initiative of The Dallas Telegraph a tree planting event took place at the Monastery. The newspaper donated twenty oleander bushes, and the church contributed their prayers, passion and labor of love.

Parishioners, nuns, and guests of the Monastery planted a little alley just behind the enclosure in front of the Monastery. It is a humble beginning for a green wall to be grown (instead of a fence) around the Monastery property. In years to come, we hope to see an evergreen wall and remember this historical event.

The parishioners agreed to repeat the tree planting ceremony each Spring and Fall until the wall is built. It is an investment not only in the community, but in the spiritual life of the parishioners. With our mutual labors, our prayers, and offerings like plants, we are making the Monastery green and beautiful.

Athanasia Davis came to the Monastery from Shreveport, Louisiana

The Dallas Telegraph spoke to Archimandrite Gerasim Eliel of St. Seraphim Cathedral of Dallas who not only blessed the event, but took a part in it with a shovel, saying: ”Each person who participates in this way can say when they come back, ‘I took part in it’. Even though they do not live here, it becomes their own, they get a sense of ownership. It becomes dear to them. They realize that they took part in a little offering and it starts out small and then it grows. And that also would be a connection for them to come back. Just like the Apostles were sent out by Jesus to get the fragments of what was left over, not only did they observe that miracle, but it took place through their own hands. Not just eyes and ears, but they had to use their hands to bring that back to see what happened. So we pray that the community grows spiritually strong. Whether there are more sisters here in the future or not, that is a secondary question, but what matters is that we devote ourselves to God. We offer the gifts of God because those plants come from Him, back to Him. And in the future, we will take something where we took part in, but God gets the increase.”

Anna March goes to St Nicholas Orthodox Church in Shreveport, Louisiana. On the day of planting she was visiting the Monastery in Texas. Sister Anna said: “It was special for me because I have not seen this Monastery before, and I like to see new things and the growth of the Christian faith, and it was special to be with this group of people from different places, with their wonderful joyful spirit.

It was very nice to be able to plant some roots in the ground here, and it was very special to keep myself even more rooted in my faith. And the nice thing about it is that after we planted them, we had a nice rain that would softly settle the roots. This rain after the tree planting was a purification time for me to remind me that I am cared for just like plants that we planted earlier with the spiritual waters.

Athanasia Davis, also came from Shreveport, Louisiana, commented: “It was really wonderful to participate in the tree planting ceremony. It is all about new life, one of the things is that I have breast cancer. Sometimes, you look at death, and you wonder about death and life, and how things are. It is wonderful to feel something is being planted by you, and see things grow––it matters a lot for a reminder of your days on Earth. That makes me happy.”

Serge Taran, Publisher The Dallas Telegraph and Archimandrite Gerasim of St. Seraphim Cathedral of Dallas

Khouria Maria Bethancort contributed: “It is a very moving ceremony to me because I feel like I became a part of the parish here, we helped the nuns at the Monastery. And people from our church can help and visit the nuns and have another chance to grow spiritually because what you experience at the Monastery is a little different from what you experience every Sunday at the church. And we were very excited when we learned that this Monastery would be built––it is now the closest Monastery to our parish.

I think it is just another important part of our growth as a parish that people are able to experience spiritual life. I love plants and gardening. So it was a blessing for me to participate as I was putting life into the ground. Father Gerasim came to help me, and we were working hand-in-hand. We started to put the soil in, and we did it together. Not long after that the rain came, and I was relieved that God provided that to my very plant, seeing that I was worried about whether there would be water soon enough––God provided for my tree, as He provides to all of us. And I am very grateful.

This tree planting is now a spiritual bridge between our parish and the Monastery. I asked mother Barbara that whenever she sees the trees to remember our parish and say prayers for us. I have told her that we also can come back and visit more often, and we can see the physical growth that is happening, and remember the times we have been here before. We are also very happy to learn about the plans for the physical growth of the Monastery, buildings and the very room we are sitting now that is about half finished. And we thought that we could be a part of that growth as well.”

Mary Blanchard shared with The Dallas Telegraph: “It was just wonderful to be able to attend the liturgy here, hear the sisters sing, feel the holiness of the place, and be with my sisters from the church. It was a pure joy to be a part of the tree planting. We came out here to see what is the service in the Monastery like, we experienced the hospitality of the sisters and the opportunity to be a part of the Monastery by planting trees.

This future blooming green wall would be something that offers beauty to the people who come, and it will also help the Monastery to look better and add something that will grow with that. It is putting new life that would be here after I am gone.

You may not believe it, but it was my first tree planted. I do not garden, I do not put anything in my yard. But someone helped me, they took out the dirt and I planted the tree with prayers. It will be my spiritual bridge to the Monastery. It was very symbolic that the first tree I have planted in my entire life was on the property of the Monastery––I felt some kind of symbolism.

Mother Barbara: “It was a blessed day!”

Sister Maria from Brazil through the translator said: “I am here waiting, for some time that is not defined yet because I am helping here and the sisters help me. I came to the The Nativity Monastery for a period of time to help. I am helping sew and repair vestments, and this is my specialty in the Monastery. It was not difficult to plant trees at all, they are small now. We were having manpower to dig holes and we, sisters, planted trees with our hands. I felt very spiritual today, as I know, leaving the Monastery in the future for my home in Brazil or France, I will leave behind these trees as my spiritual link to the Monastery.”

Mother Barbara (Superior), summarized: “It was a blessed day when we had all of those groups of friends who committed themselves to support the Monastery in the very beginning. And it was very symbolic to plant those trees in the ground today and thus create some roots with the Monastery. It is not only the roots of the plants but also spiritual roots of the beautiful connection with the monastery. People who come back to the Monastery they always look at the ground, and they see some connection more deeply in the earth. It is really an amazing day for all of us here for the sisters and for myself, or course.

Interestingly, it did not look like it would rain, but once we were finished planting, the rain started, as a miracle from the Lord. Pretty much all the plants we had outside, it looked like God was waiting for us to finish our job with everything on the earth (that nuns do), and He always shows vertical passion for us. Let’s wait for the guests and sisters to finish everything and then send rain. The rain came only when we were finished with all the plants.

Mary Blanchard shared with The Dallas Telegraph:”You may not believe it, but it was my first tree planted.”

Thank you, The Dallas Telegraph, for organizing this beautiful tree planting initiative!

To learn how you can visit The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Monastery to be a part of it spiritually and financially, please contact Mother Barbara at (903) 498-4474 or Father Gerasim at [email protected]

See you at the tree planting at Holy Nativity Women’s Monastery in the Fall of 2014!

Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ Monastery

17671 County Road 4057, Kemp, TX 75143

Phone: (903) 498-4474

Text and photo by Serge Taran

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