By Rhina Guidos
The 500,000 to 750,000 bees on the 42-acre garden have homes throughout the Washington monastery. (Photo by Rhina Guidos)
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Before that now famous encyclical came out this week, a group at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington was already busy putting the spirit of “Laudato Si’” to work — or rather, they were putting bees to work to help the environment.
A group called the Franciscan Monastery Garden Guild gathers several times a week to tend the plants and flowers that visitors to the site see. They also care for a produce garden that yields food for events at the venue, for the friars who live there and other groups in the area, and also for the poor of Washington and its environs. Some of them also work behind the scenes to tend to more than half a million bees that live on the grounds of the 42-acre garden.
Joe Bozik, a retired civil engineer and the main beekeeper of the group, said having bees on the grounds “is in keeping with spirit of St. Francis.”
The bees, which were about to be displaced when he found them, have a home, they help pollinate the garden, the garden in turn generates food for those who live at the monastery and fresh food for the poor in the city.
Bees at work at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land. (photo by Rhina Guidos)
Though Bozik had no previous training with bees, he grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York and always wanted to work with honeybees. He joined the garden guild in 2000, and six years later, he started looking for a hive for the monastery garden and came into contact with a woman in nearby Maryland who was moving away and was trying to relocate 60,000 bees.
Since then, two hives have turned into 15, with a population that can range between 500,000 to 750,000 bees. Their pollination has increased the yield of eggplant, squash, tomatoes and other produce in the garden, Bozik said.
Besides helping pollinate, the bees also provide honey produced, bottled and sold at the monastery gift shop. Twice a year, the group invites the public to see the environmental benefits of the pollinators during a honey extraction event where they can help collect honey that is later sold for the benefit of the monastery — some of it goes for equipment needed (Read More)