When Jane Lee uprooted her life in Hong Kong to move to Vancouver two years ago, she brought a passion project with her.
Ave Maria Garden is a registered charity in Hong Kong that specializes in bringing people together to create flower arrangements. But for Lee, it’s much more than a place for fans of roses or orchids.
“In our Catholic Church, we use a lot of different things to create an atmosphere in the church so that when we come for Mass or different gatherings, this brings us closer to God,” she said. Using one’s talents to beautify a church “is a kind of sacrifice.”
She believes that sacrifice can also serve the poor, lonely, elderly, and others through generosity and a shared joy of beautiful things.
In that spirit, she planted an Ave Maria Garden ministry at St. Mary’s Parish in Vancouver. As one of its early activities, she invited all single moms, widows, and other members of the parish’s Handmaids of the Lord group to learn how to create flower arrangements and to practice the skill together.
“We hope that we can use flower arrangements as a new skill for them to learn about or probably to make use of to serve other people as well.”
And serve they did. The women created 50 flower arrangements that were delivered to two local seniors’ homes just in time for Christmas in 2019.
By Christmas of 2020, volunteers doubled that record, putting together 100 flower arrangements and 300 greeting cards using donated craft supplies. Some of those volunteers included 30 of Lee’s neighbors and 26 students from a local public school.
“I think this was so amazing because most of them are not Christians,” said Lee. “As we go and reach out to non-Christians, it is a very interesting way for them to get involved, to understand what we do as Christians. It’s all about love and sharing in the community.”