By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
When a young adult has needed a place to live temporarily while working at Project Renewal in Davenport, Sister Lynn Mousel, CHM, and her housemates make room in their home. When the 2022 elections approached, Sister Kathleen Henneberry, CHM, worked with Sister Mary Rehmann, CHM, to encourage citizens to vote. When Sister Lillian Stevens, CHM, longed to help protect God’s earth, she found an opportunity to share her ideas serving on the Laudato Si’ Committee of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary (CHM).
All of these seemingly dissimilar activities are connected, the sisters say, in the spirit of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’ to build relationships among God and people, people with one another and people with all of creation.
Sisters Lynn, Kathleen and Lillian founded the CHM Laudato Si’ Committee, which gathered input from their community to develop action plans for the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. The Davenport-based Sisters of Humility formally committed to the action plan with a prayer service Nov. 14. Sister Lynn, a member of the CHM leadership team, led the prayer service and CHM President Sister Johanna Rickl signed the commitment letter.
Laudato Si’, the encyclical, inspired the global Laudato Si’ Action Platform. The seven-year initiative focuses on seven goals: Response to the Cry of the Earth, Response to the Cry of the Poor, Ecological Economics, Adoption of Sustainable Lifestyles, Ecological Education, Ecological Spirituality and Community Resilience and Empowerment.
Institutions, communities, families and individuals are engaging in plans that take them towards “a deeper capacity of wonder which takes us to a deeper understanding of life,” Pope Francis said (Laudato Si’, No. 225). The Diocese of Davenport and the Sisters of St. Francis of Clinton are among other institutions and communities that have committed to the Laudato Si’ Action Platform.
Sisters of Humility spent more than a year reflecting on how their community had already been carrying out the seven Laudato Si’ goals and developed new actions for each goal. Sister Lynn said she is struck by the similarity between the goals of Laudato Si’ and the Sisters of Humility’s mission statement. “It’s all about caring for one another as people, caring for the earth and caring for all of creation.”
Here is what caring looks like:
The sisters will get professional advice on mitigating erosion on their property and explore ways to engage with young people, possibly through Project Renewal and the Lincoln Center in Davenport. They will share information about the decrease in electricity use resulting from the installation of more solar panels at Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat in Wheatland, which the Sisters of Humility sponsor.
Assessing and raising awareness about energy conservation is another action item. The sisters also will engage in at least two ways to increase sustainability at the Humility of Mary Center, with
the focus on increasing recycling efforts. They also will explore the addition of solar panels in the area of the center. They will celebrate the spring equinox and winter solstice with prayer services.
In addition, the sisters will collaborate with established groups doing outreach to the broader community to increase voter registration and participation in the 2024 elections.
Sister Kathleen made plenty of phone calls for the 2022 mid-term elections to encourage voter registration and participation. She also is passionate about stewardship of the earth. “We used to have a CHM Care of Earth Committee. We had a strong committee that met regularly,” she said. “Because of the “Laudato Si’ encyclical,” I was motivated to follow up. I’ve always been a recycler.”
Engaging with young people by listening to their concerns and challenges is an area of focus for Sister Lillian, who expresses concern about the high suicide rate for youths. She hopes that the response of her community in listening to and learning from the youths, “will give them hope so they don’t think the world is so bad that they have to leave it.”
A book study of “Under the Sky We Make: How to be Human in a Warming World,” by Kimberly Nicholas PhD, inspired Sister Lynn’s commitment to the Laudato Si’ effort. “What I appreciated was the fact that the book was written by a scientist who states so clearly the most impactful things we can do to affect our carbon footprint.”
“So many of the sisters feel a connection with God through nature,” Sister Lynn said. “I really see that as a form of prayer. Once you have that commitment and a love for creation, it is a foundation for taking action steps to care for our earth.”