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September 24, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – People of faith often explore their relationships to God, to others, and to themselves. A recent program updating Sisters and Associates on the Adrian Dominican Sustainability and Permaculture programs gave them the opportunity to explore another key relationship: their personal relationship with Earth and the land. 

Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, Director of Sustainability, and Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, presented an end-of-summer update September 21, 2020, via broadcast and live stream.

Sister Corinne referred to the Congregation’s Sustainability Enactment, approved during the 2016 General Chapter: to “sacrifice to mitigate significantly our impact on climate change and ecological degradation.” She helped viewers to explore the “many little things” they can do to live out that Enactment and to improve the environment in six areas:

  • Food: How is our food grown? Where is it raised? Are we eating high or low on the “greenhouse gas food chain?” 
     
  • Transportation: “The one thing we do look at [in this area] is, how are we traveling? And for many of us, we are not,” Sister Corinne said. She encouraged the audience to think of the transportation choices they will make once the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted. “Are we traveling with a look at the impact? Are we carpooling? Are we cutting down on air travel?”
     
  • Waste (materials management): What is going to the landfill? “We have to hold on to the principles of reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle so the landfill is not the end-all of much of the materials we use,” Sister Corinne said.
     
  • Purchasing: Do we think before we purchase something? Can we live with what we have instead of purchasing the next, best, brightest item that seems to be calling out to us? 
     
  • Energy: Are we using renewable energy or fossil fuel energy? What are we doing to reduce our use of energy? 
     
  • Land Relationships: How are we relating to and walking on the sacred ground on which we stand?

Sister Corinne noted that the closure of the Motherhouse to visitors and the restrictions of the Sisters on the Motherhouse grounds have affected some practices. For example, because of the pandemic, the Food Services Department has begun serving the Sisters’ meals on paper products rather than reusable plates, and Sisters who go grocery shopping have not been allowed to use reusable bags. “Some of that is beyond our control and I think we’ll go back into balance,” she said. 

The environment has also benefited from the Congregation’s moratorium on commercial travel – especially air travel – and the closure of some of Motherhouse buildings during the pandemic. Both of these actions have reduced the amount of energy used, Sister Corinne said.

In his Permaculture update, Jared took his audience on “a little stroll through our land,” describing his own activities and the natural activities of the land in the past few months. 

At the beginning of the mitigation protocols in March, Jared was not working on the Motherhouse grounds. “When I was able to come back in April or May, I was struck by the fact that the things we set into motion were moving forward – it didn’t need any care,” he said. Crops planted earlier, such as asparagus and berry bushes, were coming up on their own. The rain gardens and pollinator gardens also flourished.

Jared has spent much of the spring and summer pruning and caring for fruit trees in the permaculture site’s edible orchard and experimenting with leaf litter to hold the moisture in the soil during the hot, dry summer. 

Plans moving forward are to create a digital map of the shrubs in the edible food forest; to design a new layout for the Charlotte’s Web garden to make it more accessible and easier to maintain; and to engage in succession planning to ensure that something is always growing in the Permaculture garden.


September 18, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – At a time when so many issues and crises are grabbing the attention of the U.S. public, about 200 organizations that work with and advocate for immigrants and refugees in the United States have endorsed an immigration reform plan that they hope will be a blueprint for the next administration. 

“There’s no doubt that our immigration laws need to be changed, to be worked out,” said Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, immigration attorney. During a September 15, 2020 presentation, she reviewed immigration reform efforts from the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which granted amnesty to many people who lived in the United States without legal status, through 2013, when a “very fine” immigration reform bill initiated by four Republican and four Democratic Senators failed to pass in the House of Representatives. 

But since 2016, Sister Attracta said, those efforts have been undermined – and hopes are that efforts to reform the immigration system will be strengthened in the 2021 Immigration Plan. While outlining the 10 steps of the plan, Sister Attracta also described the current situation in which immigrants endure much suffering, discrimination, insecurity, and fear of being deported to their native country – which many fled for their lives.

For example, step one in the plan is to “prioritize equity and harm reduction in the immigration system.” This step includes reinstating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA was designed to help young immigrants – ages 15 to 30 – to apply for deferral of deportation, giving them time to get a social security card and a driver’s license – and work toward legal status, Sister Attracta said. Most of the “Dreamers” applying for DACA have known the United States as their only home and fear the prospect of being deported to a country they don’t know.

President Trump called for an end to DACA in 2017, she said, and while the Supreme Court in June 2020 let the program stand, it has been diminished and does not allow for new applicants.

Step 10, Sister Attract said, would “restore and improve the U.S asylum, refugee, and other humanitarian programs.” The United States has accepted fewer and fewer refugees into the country, she said. In addition, the system of offering asylum to people facing persecution and death in their native countries has been dismantled. 

Starting in 2018-2019, “asylum seekers were sent back into Mexico to live on the streets and in tents with no access to counsel” until they received a court date for their case to be heard. Many are now sent back to what is designated as “the safest place” in Central America to await court hearing – yet none of these nations are truly safe because of struggles with war or other crises, she said.

Sister Attracta concluded by encouraging her viewers educate themselves on immigration issues; speak out on the injustices of the system and the benefits that immigrants bring to the United States; advocate with legislators for a just immigration system; and “welcome the refugee, immigrant, and asylum seeker.”

Read the 2021 Immigration Plan and watch the video of Sister Attracta’s presentation below. 
 

Presentation Slides (PDF)


 

 

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