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Leesburg pastor's beehive is all the buzz

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If you don’t believe in God, it’s time to study a beehive, according to Father Kevin J. Larsen, pastor of St. John the Apostle Church in Leesburg.

The intricacies of the beehive and how everything works together makes Father Larsen think about God putting all this attention into one little insect.

“We have stewardship over creation, and it makes me think of the interconnectedness of how important they are for food and at the same time how it’s important to see God’s hand in all these things. It’s wonderful,” he said.

For the past six years, Father Larsen has been a beekeeper, first at St. Bernadette Church in Springfield when he served as pastor (2003-16)  and now in Leesburg. Caring for bees is as much for his peace as it is for the honey and wax they provide.

“I find it wonderful to be so close to this intricate community of insects that is so beneficial to the community,” he said. “The time I spend with the bees connects me to nature. I find I will spend hours watching the bees. I will pray my office out there and I find it helps to calm me.”

That calm seems counter to the nature of bees. “Even though they are very active, I get very calm and centered when I am with them,” he said. “I find it is a helpful thing for spiritual life.”

Father Larsen has been stung only twice in the past six years. He’s learned several lessons, including facing his fears. “Beekeeping has taught me tremendous patience because it does take time for them to do their work,” he said. “It (also has taught) me about resilience. Bees can rebound from so many things and recover, repair and restore their hive.”

Although he doesn’t sell his honey, he shares much of it and auctioned off jars to raise money for the parish.

Father Larsen also stays busy gardening at the parish. A greenhouse on the property currently is being used as a staging area to suit up before gathering the honey. Father Larsen is “anxious to fully utilize the greenhouse to work on revitalizing and adding to the gardens and landscape all around the parish grounds.”

There are flower beds on both sides of the box hedges that make up the ornamental gardens behind the rectory and in the cemetery. “It is my hope, along with volunteers, to begin to revive these old beds with new plantings, hopefully many grown from seeds planted and raised in the greenhouse during the fall and winter months,” he said. “We also hope to do some container plantings around the church, rectory and parish center, as well as plantings around the rest of the property.”  

Father Larsen maintains 18 fruit trees planted last year and he hopes to plant blueberry, raspberry and strawberry plants next spring. “I have created a fenced-in raised garden area in which I will raise a variety of vegetables,” he said. “I love to cook, including tomatoes for my homemade tomato sauce, basil for my homemade pesto sauce, onions, asparagus, zucchini and squash.”

He will transfer many of the plants from the garden to containers to be kept in the greenhouse over the winter.

Next spring, hopefully, the plants will take their place in the garden, providing the bees the pollen to fill up the hives once again.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018