In 1994, a small group of us Mercy Sisters in Clonfert Diocese came together to find new ways of expressing our commitment to the Earth. We were awakening to the vision of Earth as a living organism, a great web of interconnectedness and interdependent life. We shared the desire to rediscover together who we humans are as a strand of this magnificent web. You could say we shared the desire to ‘come home’ to Earth after a long absence. And so An Gáirdín came into being!
At that time the site of the Rural Domestic School here in Portumna, which had taught agriculture and traditional crafts and skills for a hundred years, became available to us. “To make again a garden of this place” (Elisabeth Roberts) became our motto as we set out to learn to live in communion with one another and with the great diversity of life around us.
The garden needed some rest and healing following its years of generous production. It had time to lie fallow and renew itself before we began to do some organic growing. We welcomed back the hens and ducks. Our house was built on the site of the old dairy. We carefully sourced natural, renewable and recycled material. We installed the geo-thermal ground source heating system, a very new technology then.
Currently, our Education Programme and our Organic Growing are facilitated by a team of six people, two of whom are Mercy Sisters. As the need arises we can call on volunteers. A small group of those who share An Gáirdín’s vision meet regularly for support, study and reflection. Our most recent undertaking has been the provision of a building, adequate to meet the needs of our expanding range of courses and events. This has been a work of collaboration and every aspect of the building is a demonstration of sustainable practice.