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Adrian Dominican Sisters Work Towards Laudato Si’ Action Platform Goals

March 7, 2022 – Each day during Catholic Sisters Week (March 8-14, 2022), the Adrian Dominican Sisters will highlight a Sister whose ministry aligns with one of the seven Laudato Si’ Action Platform Goals.

Ecological Education

The Laudato Si’ goal of Ecological Education involves rethinking and re-designing school curricula to foster environmental awareness and transformative action among both youth and adults. 

Sister Patricia Benson, OP, has been involved in this area for years. For 12 years, she served on the Board of Directors of the River Raisin Institute, which focuses on ecological restoration and education for sustainable living for the people from Michigan who live near the River Raisin Watershed. This watershed includes the Motherhouse campuses of both the Adrian Dominican Sisters and the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM Sisters) in Monroe, Michigan.

“I now volunteer with the Climate Literacy Program,” Sister Patricia said. “Working with the Lenawee and Monroe county schools, we provide programming for students of different ages.” 

The Adrian Dominican Sisters hosted the River Raisin Institute’s first-ever River Raisin Water Festival in Lenawee County in 2019. More than 50 sixth-grade students participated in classes and hands-on experiences on topics such as rain gardens, habitat restoration, plants, and vermicomposting (composting with worms). This spring, Sister Patricia said, the Lenawee Intermediate School District will host the event.  

A Tip from Sister Patricia:

Take some time this week to explore and learn at least one new fact about your local watershed.


Community Resilience and Empowerment

The Laudato Si’ Action Platform Goal of Community Resilience and Empowerment focuses on creating communities in which people are engaged, active, and have a sense of belonging – both to their local communities and their neighborhood ecosystems.

Sister Judy Byron, OP, has been active in this area for years, on multiple fronts. She is the Associate Director of the Seattle-based Interfaith Peace and Justice Center (IPJC), whose vision is to “build community to act for systemic change in our church and world.” She is also Director of one of IPJC’s programs, the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment (NWCRI). Sponsored by 24 religious communities – including the Adrian Dominican Sisters – the NWCRI advocates for social justice by working with shareholders to improve corporate behavior and policies and promotes corporate investments in organizations that benefit communities. Sister Judy is also a consultant for the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board, which also works in socially responsible investing and community investing.

“Our strength is in that we are faith-based investors,” Sister Judy said. “We bring a moral voice for the companies and our collaboration with one another is our strength.

A Tip from Sister Judy:

Thich Nhat Hanh said, “If in our daily life, we can smile... not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.” Today, share a smile with at least three people, knowing that your smile contributes to peace.


Ecological Spirituality

The Laudato Si’ Action Platform goal of Ecological Spirituality calls for a deep conversion experience among Christians, enabling them discover God in the world around them.
Pope Francis calls for an ecological conversion that involves a new insight into Earth and an attitude of generosity, tenderness for creation, and gratitude to God for that creation. In Laudato Si’ he writes that Christians’ encounter with Jesus must be evident in the way they treat God’s gift of creation. “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or secondary aspect of our Christian experience,” he writes (#217).
Sister June Racicot, OP, has been living out this Ecological Spirituality for years and has instilled it in a community of women in Vermont. “I moved to Vermont in 2013 to hep a group of lay women establish a spiritual/sustainable community,” she said. “Living on a small, 10-acre farm, raising chickens and tending a large community garden is for me a meditative process and brought me to the realization that the Divine Spirit that dwells in me is also alive in all living beings. We are one.”

A Tip from Sister June:

Live in the present. Be aware of your place in the universe.


Adoption of Sustainable Lifestyles

The Adoption of Sustainable Lifestyles is grounded in the idea of sufficiency, and promoting sobriety in the use of resources and energy. Actions could include reducing waste and recycling, adopting sustainable dietary habits (opting for a more plant-based diet and reducing meat consumption), greater use of public transport, active mobility (walking, cycling), and avoiding single use items (e.g. plastic, etc.).

As Director of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Office of Sustainability, Sister Corinne Sanders, OP, has overseen a number of practices to make the Motherhouse Campus more sustainable. These have included installing efficient, low-energy lighting in campus buildings; installing a solar array in the field behind Weber Center and solar panels on a new carport to provide energy for the campus; and creating a permaculture area that emphasizes sustainability and cooperation with natural systems.

But in many of her quarterly updates, Sister Corinne speaks of the “million little things” that Sisters and Associates can do every day to live more sustainably and more conscious of Earth. Some of her suggestions include reducing, reusing, and repurposing items even before recycling them – and, when recycling, following the rules of your recycling company; composting organic material; purchasing shampoo, conditioner, and soap bars rather than the liquid versions in plastic bottles; buying products with as little packaging as possible; turning off lights when you leave a room; and unplugging electrical items at the end of each day.

“We’re trying to continue to find ways to change our behavior for the positive,” Sister Corinne said in one of her updates. “It’s a great idea to keep asking ourselves, ‘What are those little things that matter, that we can do?’” This prevents us from getting discouraged with the daunting task of living more sustainably,” she said. 

A Tip from Sister Corinne:

A transforming moment for me in assessing and addressing my simple lifestyle was conducting a waste audit. Knowing what comes into my house and then leaves as trash or recycling helps me make informed decisions for behavioral change. Moving to less or zero waste is a creative and engaging practice. Avoiding greenwashing is one of the skills developed in the game. Paying attention, being honest with and short circuiting my consumer tendencies, forgiving myself when I fall backward, and keeping a sense of humor is so important.


Ecological Economics

Every human endeavor – including economics – has an impact on the environment and on the health of Earth. The Laudato Si’ Action Platform goal of Ecological Economics notes several areas in which we can bring healing to our environment, including sustainable consumption and production.

As System Vice President for Environmental Sustainability at CommonSpirit Health, Sister Mary Ellen Leciejewski, OP, is responsible for overseeing systemwide environmental initiatives. She facilitates communication networks among her colleagues and works closely with environmental organizations, business partners, and other health care systems to raise awareness of and promote programs that address health care’s impact on the environment and the communities the health care organizations serve. “We impact the Earth by what we do,” she said.

Tips from Sister Mary Ellen:

  • Support companies that share your concerns. Research the companies that you buy products and services from, especially ongoing purchases. If they aren’t reducing greenhouse gases themselves and supporting action on climate change, switch to a company that is.

  • Speak out. Share your concerns and effective solutions regarding sustainability and the health impacts of climate with your elected representatives, friends, family members, and social media. Share your concerns about sustainability and the health impacts of climate with your health care provider. Ask them what their office/health care system as a whole is doing to address their use of single use plastics and what actions they are taking to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Eat a Low Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Diet. Minimize dairy and meat consumption. The livestock sector is responsible for 18% of GHG emissions. 

  • Visit these websites to determine how your actions are impacting the environment: 



Response to the Cry of the Poor

“Whether believers or not, we are agreed today that the earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everybody. …Hence every ecological approach needs to incorporate a social perspective which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and underprivileged” (Laudato Si’, 93).

Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP, responds to the cry of the poor every day in her ministry as Director of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation. She and the Sisters and Associates who serve as Justice Promoters are part of an international network of Dominicans, making others in their Congregations and in the general public aware of various ways that they can advocate for people living on the margins, people who are poor in material goods.

“Our commitment to peace and social justice is very Dominican,” Sister Kathleen said in an interview for World Day of Social Justice. “Dominic performed an activity for social justice by selling his books to provide food for the poor during a time of famine.” She noted that all issues are connected – poverty, climate change, human trafficking, and immigration. “Respect for life – all life, not just human life – is the issue,” she said. “It’s about all life and the dignity and value of all life.”

A Tip from Sister Kathleen:

I have always found this quote by Margaret Mead to be challenging and inspiring: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtfully committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Take a few minutes to read about the Black Catholic Project. The individuals profiled dedicated their lives to serving the poor and those oppressed by unjust systems and pervasive racism. 


Response to the Cry of the Earth

The Response to the Cry of the Earth is a call to protect our common home for the wellbeing of all, as we equitably address the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and ecological sustainability. Actions could include the adoption of renewable energies and energy sufficiency measures, achieving carbon neutrality, protecting biodiversity, promoting sustainable agriculture, and guaranteeing access to clean water for all.

Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, currently Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, exemplifies the Laudato Si’ Action Platform goal, Response to the Cry of the Earth. Before her election as Prioress in 2016, Sister Patricia, an attorney, founded and was the first Director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence at the Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida in 2006. The Center works create policies and a culture that recognize and respect the right of nature – animals, plants, and eco-systems – to survive and thrive for their own sakes, not only as benefits to the human race.

In 2008, Sister Patricia went on to found the Earth Law Center, which receives a grant from the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Ministry Trust for its Education Initiative. This initiative focuses on the passage of eco-centric laws and court decisions that recognize the rights of nature, as well as the human right to live in a healthy environment. Sister Elise García, OP, a member of the General Council, serves on its board.

“We’re trying to plant the seeds for a legal system that’s going to protect not only human rights but sees human rights as a part of the larger rights of nature, and that nature itself – our rivers and our mountains and our other brothers and sisters in beings – have intrinsic rights to exist and flourish,” Sister Patricia explained. 

A Tip from Sister Patricia:

Get outdoors! Look. Listen. Discover the native plants and birds that live in your neighborhood and watershed.


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