Derbyshire: Buckfast bees find their home with the Presentation Sisters

In this Season of Creation, we are encouraged to do or undertake something that will help our planet….

In our efforts to take better care of our land, we decided to invest in a beehive. Our next door neighbors, Julia and Eric, were a big help – they had a bee hive AND a spare hive. His son Daniel and his wife are beekeepers and this is how our adventure began.

At the end of June, the beehive was placed in an alcove in the church cemetery next to our house. Daniel has gone to find a swarm of bees in Buckfast. He had suggested these bees because they are gentle and were bred as early as 1919 (at Buckfast) to be more acclimatized to England. We were also aware that the schoolchildren were next door and their playground was on the other side of the hedge.

The bees arrived and were put in the hive but unfortunately some had died on the way and the others were struggling.

Daniel the beekeeper returned to Buckfast – they needed to know in case there was a bee breeding problem. Another swarm was reared and housed in the hive. These are booming.

We planted bee-friendly bushes and flowers in our garden and in the cemetery.

It’s amazing to see them working in our garden and lining up to enter the hive to collect their nectar.

On the fringes – they do a great job pollinating our flowers and bushes.

We are now picking up our empty jam jars ready for honey ………

From cathedrals to candles, from clothes to the Exsultet of the Paschal Vigil, the church honors, depicts and integrates bees in its representation of the life offered to others. Common words, like “cell” in a monastery, derive from cells in a beehive. It is a group of single worker bees, supporting each other for the survival of the whole. The high altar in St. Peter’s Basilica is covered with bees. Saint John Chrysostom once shared in a homily:

“The bee is more honored than other animals,

not because he works,

but because he works for others. “

Martin Marklin embarked on beekeeping outside of his core business, producing thousands of hand-carved liturgical candles each year in the Marklin Candle workshop in Contoocook, New Hampshire. Beekeeping, however, became his own calling, and the more Marklin learned about the life of bees, the more he saw how the hive reflected the early church.

Martin has a five-minute video called Be The Bee in which he parallels the bees and us as a Church.

In light of the video, consider the following questions:

Martin Marklin says he became interested in beekeeping when he realized he “had no idea how bees did what they did.” What aspects of your job interest you? How could exploring these areas open your imagination? Is there any anxiety you need to overcome to do this?

Marklin says the bee community “reflects the way the early church was.” Do you see any powerful metaphors for the church around you?

In what ways are you “working for others”? Is this a useful mindset in your organization?

As a candle maker Marklin takes joy in knowing that the work of his hands becomes “the light of Christ in the world”. Do you see your work this way? Could you?

Markin urges everyone to “be the bee” – to find beauty and turn it into something even more beautiful. Are there places in your life and work where you can do this?

Finally, we invited parishioners and schoolchildren to get involved, donating crocus bulbs to help create a crocus carpet in St Joseph’s cemetery – and feed our bees. We hope to get the children from St Joseph’s school to plant the bulbs.

(This was first published in Faith & Leadership:

Key words: Bees, Sisters Presentation, Season of Creation, Sister Susan Reichert PBVM

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