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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.
September 30, 2021, Adrian, Michigan – “Our life is a process of awakening. Each of us is precious to God. The wonderful thing that I have witnessed over years of spiritual direction is that God knows each of us intimately and will lead us in ways that we can follow.”
That was the introduction that Sister Patricia Benson, OP, made as she opened her September 23, 2021, spirituality talk, “Awakening Journey with God.” Her presentation was the latest in a series of live streamed talks sponsored by the Spirituality Committee of the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
Throughout her talk, Sister Pat spoke of how God led her through various stages of her life. After each stage, she paused and posed a question, giving her audience a few minutes to reflect on their answer. “Please look at your relationship with God and Jesus and know that God will work within your personal circumstances and gifts – but sometimes in surprising and maybe challenging ways,” she said.
Sister Pat spoke of her young life and how her views of the world were shaped by those of her family and neighbors – and how her world “got bigger” when she attended Catholic school. Her teen years were marked by the “usual adolescent struggles,” but her view of God was growing, too. “I chose to enter religious life specifically to have time for God in my life,” she said.
She went on to speak of her formation years and the “breath of fresh air and a deeper freedom to think and explore” that came through Vatican II and the Adrian Dominican Congregation’s three-year Chapter of Renewal, which set the stage for sweeping changes in response to Vatican II.
After her undergraduate study, Sister Pat said, she was invited to work towards a master’s degree in either mathematics or theology. “Although since high school I thought I would be a math and science teacher for the rest of my life, this provoked a serious discernment,” leading to her decision to study theology, she said. “Being introduced to the depth and breadth of the Christian tradition with its various schools of thought opened my mind to the reality of theology as faith seeking understanding.”
Sister Pat went on to discuss her developing understanding that humanity is “trashing Earth, God’s beautiful creation,” and that her American lifestyle made her complicit in this destruction. But she concluded with her deeper understanding of God’s forgiveness and unconditional love – and how our understanding of the universe has led to an expanded view of God.
“The Infinite Mystery has had to include a loving, compassionate mystery,” Sister Pat said. “The God who created everything in the universe – perhaps multiverse – loves it and continues to hold it. Paul’s image of the Body of Christ has had to grow to include kinship with all of creation and cosmic dimensions.”
Watch the recording of Sister Pat’s presentation below.