Religious communities practice care for the earth


By Barb Arland-Fye

Each of the three congregations of women religious in the Davenport Diocese takes a practical approach in responding to the call to be good stewards of God’s creation.
The stewardship efforts of the Sisters of St. Francis in Clinton have led to creation of a community garden project in the city’s north side that is accepting reservations for plots to be rented by individuals, families or groups. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for April 22.
“Franciscans are passionate about care for the earth and all living things,” said Laura Anderson, who facilitates Sustainable Clinton, a local environmental group that the Clinton Franciscans initiated. “Starting the community garden was a logical way to encourage both sustainability and self-sufficiency for people.” (A full story about the project appears on page 3.)
The Carmelite Sisters in Eldridge have a small community, and their efforts are focused on organic gardening and recycling as much as possible, said Prioress Sister Lynne Elwinger, OCD. The Sisters also support groups that engage in environmental efforts and the Sisters drive a hybrid car, to use less gasoline.
Sisters of Humility in Davenport have created a Care of Earth Committee “to raise awareness of the climate change problems and to encourage the Sisters and their Associates to reduce their own carbon impact,” said Sister Cathleen Real, CHM, who was instrumental in organizing the committee.
An inter-congregational group of Sisters also has been formed called Catholic Sisters for a Healthy Earth. “We’re trying to do the same thing through collaborative efforts,” Sr. Real said.  During Lent 2011, the group organized a campaign to encourage people to reduce the use of plastic bags. “We’re looking at ways of helping raise the awareness of people in this region.”
At the Congregation of the Humility of Mary’s motherhouse in Davenport, the Sisters engage in recycling and energy conservation as much as possible, said Sister Bea Snyder, the director.
“In addition to recycling, we have cloth napkins available for guests and staff and we’re mindful of the cleaning supplies we use,” Sr. Snyder said. “It becomes an individual response to the call for care for the earth.”
She remembers as a child when people used to burn paper in trash barrels in the alleys behind their homes. “We never thought a thing of it. When I was growing up, so much was taken for granted.”
Not anymore. She noted that the Sisters of Humility hosted a weeklong retreat last month that focused on the spirituality of the universe. The Jesuit priest who led the retreat explored life from the beginning of creation to the present time. More than 70 individuals attended his presentation at the mother house, which was encouraging to Sr. Snyder.
The Jesuit’s presentation made her realize “we’re really abusing a huge gift we’ve been given. And we need to look at making some changes. Among the changes she’s making in her personal life: “keeping the thermostat down to 68 degrees at home during the cooler months and 78 in the summer and turning it off during the day, recycling and being mindful of what I put on the grass in my yard, looking for soil-friendly fertilizer.”
She also hopes her community will continue to invite environmentally minded speakers to give presentations open to the public. “That’s a way we can be involved, help to educate. Education is part of our beginning, our middle and our end.”

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