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Sisters Speak of Experience in Ecuador and Efforts to Preserve the Amazon Rainforest
White woman with gray hair and glasses stands at a podium. Another white woman with gray hair stands t the side. In front of the podium are attached 5 photos of the rainforest and on a table sits lit candles and some artifacts

March 7, 2024, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sisters Lorene Heck, OP, and Mary Priniski, OP, recently made their second trip to the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador, renewed their acquaintance with the local Achuar people, and learned from them about their cultures and the need to preserve the rainforest and all of Earth.

In a February 14, 2024, presentation, Sisters Lorene and Mary recounted their experiences of traveling from one rainforest village to another on three-hour canoe rides, hiking in the jungle, being reunited with members of the Achuar community, and their many encounters and lessons learned from the Achuar communities. 

Their trip at the end of 2023 was a follow-up to their first tour of the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador in November 2022. The 2022 trip gave Sister Lorene, Director of the Congregation’s Ministry Trust Fund, the opportunity to experience firsthand the Ecotourism project of the Achuar people, funded in part by a Ministry Trust grant. 

“The Ministry Trust Fund has made it possible for the Achuar to train guides for ecotourism,” Sister Lorene explained. “The Ministry Trust member initiative was introduced to the Achuar people by [the late] Sister Judy Bisignano, for whom the rainforest was a life-changing experience.” 

Sister Judy was the founder of Maketai, Inc., a nonprofit organization that supports the projects of the Achuar people. “Maketai means thank you, and [the Achuar people] are extremely grateful for any people who come and visit them because they really want people to know the importance of the rainforest and make a commitment to the maintenance of the sustainability of the rainforest,” Sister Mary explained. “Their big goal is to unite all the Achuar communities to work together to protect the rainforest.”  

The Ministry Trust also granted funds to the Achuars’ reforestation project, which involved planting 10,000 saplings. The Achuar community makes use of trees to build their homes. Reforesting is “part of their desire to preserve the rainforest and to be responsible stewards of the rainforest,” Sister Lorene said.

The importance of the rainforest is one of the lessons the Achuar people strive to teach the eco-tourists who visit them. But the lesson extends beyond the rainforest to the need to protect all of Earth. “When I think of what they’re doing [in Ecuador] and what we’re doing with our land, it’s all of a piece,” Sister Mary said. “How do we really allow for the Earth to flourish? We need to do our part here as they’re trying to do their part there.”

Watch a video recording of the presentation.

Feature photo at top: Sisters Mary Priniski, OP, left, and Lorene Heck, OP, talk about their recent experiences in the Ecuadorian rainforest.

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