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March 18, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – While the COVID-19 pandemic has stopped many activities around the world, it has not put a stop to the efforts to move forward in sustainability and the permaculture practices at the Motherhouse Campus of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, and Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, Director of Sustainability, gave an update of their efforts during a March 10, 2021 presentation.
Permaculture is an “ethical design system for human habitations and land use that emphasizes sustainability, integration, and cooperation with – as opposed to domination of – natural systems.” Jared spoke of big and small changes in the Congregation’s permaculture site:
While the permaculture site’s system of composting through the use of worms has been successful, Jared will begin a system of orchard composting to benefit the trees and shrubs on the site. This system uses ground leaves, wood chips, hay, and similar organic matter. “I’m looking for composting by fungi – slower, steadier, and more stable,” he explained.
In April, Jared said, he will take on “60,000 busy interns” as the Permaculture site acquires two bee hives.
With the approval of the Fire Department and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Jared hopes to conduct small controlled burns in the rain gardens and pollinator gardens. “This is a very efficient way” to maintain the health of the gardens, he said.
In her update on sustainability, Sister Corinne noted the Congregation’s continued efforts to reduce the use of energy on the Motherhouse Campus. “During the COVID time we’ve had to take a step back from implementing a lot of our sustainable practices, but we’ve been able to keep on track in the LED light replacement program.” The project of replacing the more traditional lighting system with LED lights – which are more energy efficient – is about 80 percent complete, Sister Corinne said.
Sister Corinne also noted that global climate change is still a threat to the planet. “There’s really no time for complacency,” she said. “Each day, each decision counts as we find new ways to lighten our usage of fossil fuels.” Consumer choices make a difference including, among other ways, reducing the use of plastics. Corinne said she has found particular bar soaps that can be used as shampoo – to replace the shampoo that comes in plastic bottles.
On a larger scale, Sister Corinne spoke to the Sowing Hope for the Planet initiative of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) – an organization of the primary elected leaders of the congregations of Catholic women religious around the world – in collaboration with the Global Catholic Climate Movement. Through this initiative, Catholic Sisters around the world can upload information about their own sustainability efforts and initiatives. This allows congregations such as the Adrian Dominican Sisters to “partner with other like-minded organizations to find ways to meet the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor,” Corinne said.
See the complete presentation by watching the video below.
Feature photo (top): Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, uses a scythe to work on the permaculture land at the Adrian Dominican Sister Motherhouse.
March 2, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – At the mid-point of February, Black History Month, Sister Jamie Phelps, OP, gave a presentation on African American spirituality – rooted in the spirituality of Africans – and of the need for all spiritualities and all people to be accepted and valued as gifts of God.
Sister Jamie’s talk was part of a series of monthly presentations on spirituality, coordinated by the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Spirituality Committee. Her talk was a live stream presentation on February 16, 2021.
An Adrian Dominican Sister since 1959, Sister Jamie is a theologian, currently residing at the Dominican Life Center in Adrian. She served for eight years as the Director of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies and was the Katherine Drexel Professor of Systematic Theology at Xavier University in New Orleans. Before that, she taught theology in Chicago at the Catholic Theological Union (CTU) from 1986 to 1998 and Loyola University, 1998 to 2003. Sister Jamie has also served as a visiting professor of theology at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio, from January to May, 2003, and twice at the University of Notre Dame: in 2005-2006 and 2012-2013.
“My assumption is that we’re all human beings, but depending on where we were raised, where we were born, what city, what environment we were raised in, we experience God in different ways,” Sister Jamie began. “Spirituality is a reflection on how we relate to God.”
Sister Jamie spent much of her presentation describing the African world view, the root of the world view of African Americans. For Africans, identity is rooted in the community – not the individual. Their concept of time is “that of the eternal now,” in which life, death, and immorality are circular and interconnected, she said. In this worldview, she said, “everything that is, is connected – connected to each other and to the source of their being, God.”
When African slaves encountered Christianity, they “incorporated aspects that eased their burden of captivity,” Sister Jamie explained. She gave the example of slaves in Latin America and in the Caribbean, who found that elements of Catholic tradition resonated with their tradition of intercessions and recognition of God’s presence. “Catholicism denied this mixing as a false syncretism,” she said. “But now the Church recognizes enculturation – discovering in your culture, in your way of being, the God who is present, and expressing this using the symbols and traditions that are part of your cultural history.”
Watch a recording of Sister Jamie’s presentation below.