The following story appeared in the September 22 Idaho Catholic Register.
Old-fashioned produce cart filled with free-to-take harvested veggies from the Risen Christ Vegetable Garden. (Courtesy photo/Mary Hersley-Kaineg)
Weeb Martin learned the meaning of this five-word phrase, which has guided much of his life, from a priest who led the Catholic campus ministry at the University of Utah. Prior to his college days at the U of U, Webb was not that serious about his faith. But as he spent time with the Catholic student group, he was inspired by the leadership of its priest, and he began to understand that faith in Jesus Christ is lived in loving service.
As a busy Emergency Room physician, Doctor Weeb Martin sought ways that he could actively make someone’s life a little better. Outside of the E.R., he helped out at his son’s high school, Bishop Kelly, by volunteering to coach the Lacrosse team. He ended up coaching for ten years.
While on staff at St. Alphonsus Hospital in Boise, Weeb often worked with the head of the nursing staff, Linda Gillespie. Linda, who was at St. Alphonsus for 27 years, has a heart for the poor, and was actively involved in Project Haiti, an outreach project of St. Alphonsus Hospital, which regularly sends shipments of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals to a Port-au-Prince hospital and orphanage. It didn’t take long for Weeb and Linda to connect through their mutual love and concern for those in need.
In 2007, Linda and Weeb were married at Risen Christ Catholic Church, where they agreed to serve together in ministry and to continue to put “Love into Action.” By now Weeb had retired from his work as an E.R. doctor. It was the perfect time for him to fulfill a lifelong dream of going on a Medical Mission. Of course, his destination was Port-au-Prince and Project Haiti.
Weeb and Linda will both readily confess that while they are putting love into action, they are listening for direction from above. As Weeb was returning from Haiti, with lingering pictures in his heart of the starving people he saw there, he felt led to do something here, even if it was very small. That’s when the idea of a parish garden ministry was born. Weeb explained, “I thought, even if I helped feed one hungry person here, it would be a tiny step against world hunger.”
“As a member of the Risen Christ Catholic Community, I spent a lot of time around the church building and grounds. It occurred to me that all that land could be put to better use than growing sagebrush . . . which was all that was there then,” he said with a small laugh.
With the blessings of the pastor, Father (now Monsignor) Joe DeSilva, the Risen Christ Garden Ministry became a reality. It took hours of hard work to turn a piece of desert into a lush garden, but with the help of many volunteers, the impossible was accomplished. “I get a lot of attention because of the garden,” Weeb said, “but there are so many unsung hero volunteers who never get the credit they deserve.” Weeb noted the invitation to come and help, or just to observe is always there. “Sometimes people come with their children, so they can experience a real garden. Sometimes people come and work only one time. It really doesn’t matter. The Lord sends the ones who need to be here, and somehow it all gets done.”
Weeb and Linda Martin in the Risen Christ vegetable Garden, sampling fresh-picked tomatoes. (Courtesy photo/Mary Hersley-Kaineg)
As if tending a huge and thriving community garden wasn’t enough activity for a retired person, Weeb was inspired to use some of that unused acreage to plant trees. Soon there was an orchard growing near the garden, but there was still some empty ground that needed to be productive. That was the springboard for the next great idea — a Christmas tree project.
In what seemed like no time, but actually took years of tender loving care, funds derived from the sale of the trees grown at the Risen Christ Christmas Tree Farm began making inroads on the parish debt. Along with the successful fundraising from the annual Women’s Club Teas, and the generosity of countless donors, last month Risen Christ was able to retire their debt. Monsignor Joe was there to burn the mortgage. Weeb and Linda were there cheering with the rest of the growing community.
Even with these projects well in hand, the Martins are not resting. Linda serves in the parish outreach ministry, bringing Communion to the homebound. Weeb is helping students at St. Ignatius School to begin a school community garden.
Now in their seventies, these Seniors are living out, every day, their personal motto: “Love is an Action Word.”
If you know a Senior whose witness to the faith needs to be told, please send an email with your story idea to email@example.com. The Senior Life column is written by Mary Kaineg from St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Boise.
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