Land Reclamation


by Sister Jean Coughlin, IHM

The saying, “one thing leads to another,” is fitting when applied to what has resulted in the IHM Congregation’s Land Reclamation project and the creation of the Welcoming Center.

It started when a few members of the EarthCARE Committee attended a presentation on managing storm water runoff. (The distribution of free rain barrels to each attendee was part of the enticement to attend!) At the presentation we learned that rain water running off impervious areas, such as roofs and parking lots, drains into the sewer system. The water then runs into our streams and rivers carrying debris, oils and grease residue and other contaminants. In our region, this is affecting the Lackawanna River and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.

After the presentation we stopped to speak with the presenter and described to him the work of the EarthCARE Committee. We felt that there might be a potential for improving the storm water drain issues on our IHM property. He agreed to stop by and take a look at possible solutions.


Pictured above are Sister Ellen Carney and Mike Zayac.

Coincidentally, in light of the closure of our retreat center in Cresco, PA, the Spiritual Renewal Task Force was investigating opportunities for groups and individuals to use the space at the IHM Center for prayer, programs and retreat experiences. The committee’s research and discussions led to the proposal of a Welcoming Space. The Vision Statement of the Welcoming Space at the IHM Center articulates the desire to “offer a contemplative ambiance that nourishes and gathers the various faith and human communities in order to establish deeper relationships among ourselves and with others longing for the Holy.”

On the overall plan it was acknowledged that these expansions would require additional parking. New parking areas were added to the design. Incorporated into the parking lot are materials that allow water to infiltrate the soil. This allows for a reduction in storm water runoff.

The goals of the project at that time included the creation of a sustainable space which would be conducive for gatherings, for reflection, and a stronger connection to nature. In order to accomplish this goal, the design required the diversion of the rain water from the roof of the IHM Center and from the parking lots away from the sewer system back into the ground. Through the development of a new drainage system, water is redirected. Rain gardens, planted depressions which allow storm water runoff to be absorbed, were placed in various locations. These help to control the runoff water and promote infiltration, native plants and wildlife. In the meadow behind the IHM Center rain gardens have been expanded to create a small wetland. The wetland is the area saturated with excess runoff.

Native vegetation is being used throughout the design. This will harmonize with the natural ecosystem and wildlife. A variety of plants are being used to attract wildlife and create variety throughout the seasons. Spaces near the building are intended to attract butterflies and some birds. Plants at the center of the meadow are more attractive to bees and will be away from the building and the walking path. The woodland edge and plants are for habitats and food for birds.

The newly added walking path now enables better access for those who visit the Center and for those who routinely walk the property. The path also adjoins the road that leads to the shrine and the hermitages located behind Our Lady of Peace Residence.

This project, the Land Reclamation and the Welcoming Space at the IHM Center, has been born of the dreams and imaginings of many sisters, friends and professional advisors. All are committed to the care of our common home by taking responsibility for our little portion of it. Much has been accomplished to make this dream a reality. In the days and years ahead our hope is to truly make this a place of welcome to all, certainly to our human neighbors but also to the birds, frogs, bees, butterflies and plants who will make this home.

A debt of gratitude is owed to our IHM Development Office for all of the effort that has gone into and continues to be put forth to provide funding for the project. We are grateful for the grants and donations which enabled all of this to come to fruition.

Sister Jean Coughlin serves as the administrator at The Pascucci Family Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, Pa.