A Garden of Peace and Reflection
by friar Bob Roddy, OFM Conv.
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.” 1 Cor. 6
“I cook and Fr. John encourages others to join us.” Fr. George Munjanatyu, OFM Conv.
Fr. George Munjanatyu’s face breaks into a beaming smile as he shows off his vegetable garden at St. Francis Ashram, adjacent to Holy Family Church in Louisville, Kentucky. The garden is not only beautiful, but a place of peace and reflection. The produce from this garden often ends up in some of his delicious meals or in care packages for Bellarmine University students to take home.
Fr. George is no stranger to gardens or to the kitchen; his family in India were farmers up to his father’s generation. “My mother and father always had a large garden,” Fr. George reminisced, “I was always used to having access to fresh vegetables.” His love of cooking and of food came from his parents and grandparents; his proficiency in cooking came out of necessity. “In the major seminary we did not have an evening cook on Sundays, so I took it upon myself to cook for the seminarians. I would rather cook for a large group of people than just four or five.”
After serving as a seminary director and province treasurer in India, Fr. George arrived in the United States seven years ago to assist in the nascent Young Adult ministry (YAFraM) that our Friars from India inaugurated in Louisville in 2010. He also serves as pastor of Holy Family Catholic Community and the SyroMalabar Catholic Community in Louisville.
“As Fr. John and I embarked upon our ministry to young adults, I thought that bringing the young people together for a meal would be an ideal way to overcome any barriers that we might face. Sharing a meal creates an atmosphere of openness and welcome.” The word, “Ashram,” connotes a place where all are welcome, a place of hospitality and peace. “I am not the most talkative of people,” Fr. George said, “but in the kitchen and around the table, I find that sharing a meal together not only feeds the body, but the soul.”
“No one leaves an Ashram hungry,” Fr. George said, “We often send food home with the students.
In recent years we often send fresh produce home as well. The garden serves a two-fold purpose of saving us money as well as a nod to our Franciscan concern for the environment. I have even sent seeds home with our guests so that they may start their own gardens.”
“Sharing a meal is a good way to get to know one another. We are in touch with hundreds of people in the Louisville area; food helps us to grow our ministry and our connections with others. It is a powerful way to connect with people. When we cook and eat together, we not only form social connections but we get to know one another.”