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December 27, 2022, Adrian, Michigan – For many years, the Adrian Dominican Congregation – along with numerous congregations of U.S. Catholic women religious – have followed the call of Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’, to live more sustainably on Earth to address global climate change and environmental degradation. Now – in response to one of its 2022 General Chapter Enactments – the Congregation will join with other Catholic organizations worldwide as participants in the Laudato Si’ Action Platform.
“This is not a call to do more, but to develop more deeply and to plan and chronicle what we do and share it with the world,” said Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, General Councilor and former Director of the Office of Sustainability. “One of the hopes is that as we put forth what we are doing [and we can learn about what] other groups are doing, as well. It becomes a public domain for people to see what is being done.” Her comments were made during a December 16, 2022, presentation at Weber Retreat and Conference Center and live streamed.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ sustainability efforts through the years include a permaculture site on the Motherhouse grounds, an agricultural design that works with and learns from nature rather than controlling it; a solar array field behind Weber Retreat and Conference Center; a solar panel carport at the Regina residence; and the installation of LED lights on Motherhouse buildings to decrease electricity usage.
Sister Corinne noted that the Adrian Dominican Sisters, in joining the Action Platform, will first have to undergo an assessment of current sustainability efforts, a “deep dive into how we are already living.” The Congregation will then receive feedback and recognition of the progress that’s already being made.
Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP – Director of the Office of Peace, Justice and Integrity of Creation – reviewed the goals of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform: response to the cry of the Earth; response to the cry of the poor; ecological economics; education; adoption of sustainable lifestyles; ecological spirituality; and community engagement and participatory action.
Sister Kathleen encouraged the audience to see each goal as a “destination of our journey, a wholistic vision of integral ecology: caring for each other, being moderate in the use of our resources, celebrating our Creator.” She noted that working toward the goals is not a change in direction but a deepening of current commitments. “We’re responding to a call for healing in our relationship with God, our neighbors and our Earth as we strive to create a better future – with other congregations, parishes, and institutions,” she said.
The presentation can be viewed below.
September 9, 2022, Adrian, Michigan – As the season begins to change from summer to autumn, Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates heard an update on the summer’s successes and challenges in the Permaculture Garden and in Motherhouse campus sustainability efforts – as well as a look ahead to the September 1-October 4, 2022, liturgical Season of Creation.
Permaculture (permanent + agriculture) is a design system that cooperates with and learns from natural systems rather than dominating them.
Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, began the August 31, 2022, in-person and live streamed presentation on a personal note, reflecting on how much he had learned in his past 3½ years of working with the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
“In my own mind and experience, I’ve learned a lot since being here, and I can say that I have become closer to the person that I wish to become,” Jared said. “It wouldn’t have been possible without being here.”
Jared spoke of the successes of the past summer, including greater yields from fruit trees; flourishing vegetable gardens; the continued development of Hügelkultur mounds, in which gardens are built on mounds made up of decaying wood and plants; the successful experiment of using controlled burns to lessen the problem of insect pests; and tours of the Permaculture Garden by Siena Heights University students, as well as the planned return of honors Siena Heights students to learn about and work on the Permaculture site.
But Jared also noted some challenges this summer, including difficulty finding and retaining a seasonal assistant; dry weather that affected the crops; a “noticeable increase in pest pressure” on the crops from wildlife such as raccoons, possums, and deer; and delays in erecting a 10-foot fence to keep the deer out.
“This was probably one of the more challenging growing seasons … but hopefully it will end on a note that says that even though it was challenging, it was worth going through and I felt like I learned a lot,” Jared said, adding that “in the long run, [challenging times] can be the times when you learn the most.”
Joel Henricks, Director of Facilities and Grounds, gave an update on campus sustainability projects. He reported that some of the material needed to begin production of the solar array in the field behind Weber Center and the solar panels on the carport of the parking lot of the Regina building has finally arrived after a year-long wait, but more is still needed. Some work is also still needed on the six electric vehicle charging stations set up in the parking lot for future use, he said.
Joel also reported on another sustainability project, restoration of a pond, which has attracted a great deal of wildlife: frogs, deer, geese, ducks, dragonflies, and native plantings. Hopes are ultimately to stock the pond with fish, he said.
Another sustainability effort is to continue planting trees to replace those that were removed for the solar array field and others that had died. “The good news is that I’m never in a shortage of people wanting trees planted,” Joel said. “There are constantly donors who would like to buy a tree in memory of someone, so we’re working with [the Development Office] to replace trees as we’re having to have them removed.”
Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, Director of the Office of Sustainability, focused on the campus celebration of the Season of Creation, a global, ecumenical celebration of creation and a reminder of the need to take care of Earth and its inhabitants.
Sister Corinne noted the beauty of creation, but also its struggles. “We are in a time of great urgency as we can see where destruction has happened,” she said. “We hear the cry of the Earth and we’re asked to hear the cry of those who are poor. … I think we can see that every action we’re taking on this campus … is really one way to address that cry of the Earth.”
But she also noted that the Congregation and the world still have a long way to go in addressing global climate change and other threats to our environment. “The Season of Creation was intended to help us look at that which is beautiful and to look at that which needs our response – our immediate response at this point,” she said.
Sister Corinne will formally take office on October 8, 2022, as a member of the Congregation’s General Council. She and the other members of the General Council will lead the Congregation in living out the five 2022 General Chapter Enactments, including the Sustainability Enactment that calls on the Congregation to participate in Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ Action Platform. The Adrian Dominican Congregation will be among Catholic organizations worldwide who work together to meet specified sustainability goals to bring healing to Earth.
Watch the entire video below.