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Sacred Garden - offering spiritual growth in a quiet space

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

In today's hectic pace of life, many find it hard to take the time to slow down for reflection and meditation. Sister Dorothy Batto has returned to her hometown to provide a space where the frazzled and harried, the worried and stressed, the seekers and the lost, can do just that. Batto, with 45 years of experience in educational, spiritual and pastoral ministry, warmly welcomes everyone to The Sacred Garden.
The aim of The Sacred Garden is improve the psychological and spiritual growth of all men and women, to offer opportunities for individuals and small groups to explore the "reality of their lives and find ways to live with greater depth and integrity."
While Batto is a member of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word (SCIW), The Sacred Garden is a self-supporting ministry that relies on class fees, fundraisers and donations to operate. It is not specifically directed to Catholics, said Batto. "The Garden is open to all faiths and no faiths!"
Batto radiates the warmth and friendliness of a person who grew up learning the hospitality of a Bandera ranching family, and of one who has spent most of her life in service to others in the name of Jesus. She grew up here in Bandera County, the daughter of Agatha and Raymond Batto Sr. and Agatha Batto, on a ranch between Bandera and Medina. She attended St. Joseph School here, where the teachers were part of the SCIW order.
Batto is pleased to be a part of the long history of the Incarnate Word Sisters serving in Bandera. According to T. Lindsay Baker's "the First Polish Americans," the first nuns to work here were with the Polish Order of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. Their sky-blue habits led them to be known as "the Blue Sisters." When their order dissolved in 1881, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word took over the teaching duties at St. Joseph's and most of the remaining Blue Sisters joined that order.
Becoming a nun "was something I wanted to do from first grade on," Batto says with a smile. "I felt like it was the right thing to do. And my family has been so supportive through the years."
Isn't it time for retirement?
"Oh, no, I feel like I have a lot of energy and things to do, things I can do well. [The Garden] is an opportunity to share the gifts I've received."
Batto says that with people living longer, there is now a whole age bracket of older people who "have wisdom to share that the world needs."
The Sacred Garden is located at 1306 Oak Street in a newly remodeled house with a crisp white picket fence out front.
Guests feel immediately welcome upon entering, with plenty of comfortable sofas and overstuffed chairs, good lighting, beautiful art and bright floral arrangements. Batto uses the front room for individual and small group sessions. The library, where a large collection of the world's best books on spiritual growth are stacked double on the shelves, offers a couple of great chairs perfect for spending time reading or watching videos. A large space in the back of the house provides room for larger groups and crafts.
Out back, the yard awaits attention, but already offers a small labyrinth for meditation, and will eventually include flowers, fountains and places for quiet retreats in nature.
Batto has done educational and pastoral ministry from the beginning of her life with the SCIW. She started The Sacred Garden in San Antonio in 2001.
The programs of The Garden were initially geared toward women, but gradually evolved to include men, "at their request," she said.
The garden theme appropriately reflects the ministry's purpose. "We're cultivating the fullness of life, tending the whole and the holy," she explained. "There's a lot of searching today. People want to know how to express their own spirituality, they're seeking understanding."
Each course offered at The Garden "tries to enable the whole person, in a healthy way."
The Sacred Garden is already offering a wide variety of weekly classes as well as group retreats and workshops. These include Christian Meditation, Journaling to Deeper Living, Discovering Wisdom in Your Dreams, Stress Free for Good, and Contemplative Seeing. Classes are scheduled in cycles, so if you miss one, you may be able to sign up at another time of the year. They are scheduled weekdays during the day or evening and some courses meet on Saturdays and include lunch. Fees vary from $30 to $70.
Anyone in need of spiritual direction or pastoral consultation may make individual or group appointments on a per hour basis.
The Sacred Garden is open for use for library resources, private retreat and reflection from 9 am to 4 pm most Fridays through May. You may come and go as needed. A free will offering is appreciated.
The Garden's website is currently under construction, but you'll want to stop by and get a hug from Sister Dorothy, pick up a brochure listing her classes and find out about how you can volunteer in this healing and positive ministry.
Call 830-688-0167 or email for more information about classes or to schedule a consultation.

There will be an open house Sunday, Jan. 26, from 10 am to 5 pm.