Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Scranton, PA
Laudato Sí Action Platform Commitment Statement

The unconditional love of the Holy One embraces all creation. This boundless and inclusive love summons us IHM Sisters to live in radical interdependence and kinship with our fragile and precious planet.

We align ourselves with the spirit of Laudato Si and pledge our time, energy, and resources to collaborate with others on a 7 year journey of education, advocacy, and action for the sake of Earth, our Common Home.

We commit to restoring right relationship with the created world and to using imagination, creativity, and fresh thinking to bring about God’s dream for the flourishing of our beautiful and wounded world.


As we continue to care for Earth, our Common Home, by living with consciousness of the impact of our every choice on our planet, our EarthCARE committee offers information on how our death and burial can also be a gift to Earth. This month our EarthCARE Update offers answers to frequently asked questions about green burial.

What is green burial?
Green burial is an environmentally sustainable end-of-life option that allows one to return to the earth naturally. Green burial is not something new. Until the advent of embalming science 150 years ago, it was the traditional way burial took place. Green burial or natural burial actually goes back in time to the way burial practices once were before today’s conventional methods took hold. In a green burial, humans are returned to the earth as simply as possible, ensuring the burial site remains natural in all respects. The interment of one’s remains is made in a biodegradable casket or shroud. The body is not embalmed or if so, only natural and organic products are used so that there is no interruption in the natural ecosystem.

What makes something a green burial?
In order for a burial to be considered green, there are three (3) criteria.

1. No embalming or the use of toxic chemicals when preparing the body – conventional embalming chemicals such as formaldehyde can have a negative impact on the environment. The body is still washed and disinfected when applicable with ecologically safe chemicals.

2. Absence of a vault/liner – Vaults and liners are commonly required by cemeteries to keep the earth above stable for landscaping purposes. Vaults and liners prolong the return of the body to the earth and therefore aren’t considered “green.”

3. Use of biodegradable casket and/or shroud – a casket or shroud made of organic materials (i.e. all wood casket or cotton shroud) does not inhibit the body from returning naturally to the earth like some metal caskets or clothing made of synthetic material would. Organic materials easily break down and pose less of a risk to the environment.

How does green burial align with the Catholic faith?
The practice of green burial is completely consistent with the Catholic faith and its tradition of burying the dead. Although embalming facilitates modern day funeral practices, it is easy to faithfully follow the Catholic Funeral Rite when choosing green burial, provided there is careful planning by the family and willingness and cooperation from the local funeral home.

At this time, the Diocese of Scranton and St. Catherine’s Cemetery are not yet ready for green burials.

green burial casket
         biodegradable casket

Composting as an Act of Transformation

Composting as an act of love—who knew? But consider that when we turn what we would normally discard (food scraps and yard waste) into fertile, living soil teeming with microbial life, this is an act of transformation for a world already losing its topsoil at alarming rates. This act of love is simple: by combining nitrogen/green matter (food scraps and fresh yard waste) with carbon/brown matter (dried leaves, straw, and even some types of cardboard and paper) a balanced process of decomposition takes place. This process turns waste matter into a restorative, life-giving source of healing and nutrients for our ecosystems and our Earth.

Consider this: all five boroughs of New York City compost both residential food waste and yard waste. If they can do it on such a large scale, certainly we can do it in our homes.

Why Compost?

1. Composting reduces waste, makes us less dependent on landfills, and decreases greenhouse gas emissions.

2. Food scraps are the largest component of landfill waste, accounting for 24.1% of solid waste and 8% of greenhouse gases. Food scraps are the third leading cause of the greenhouse gas, methane.

As we enter a new year, our EarthCARE committee invites all of us to continue our care for creation and to deepen our curiosity about those who share Earth, our Common Home, with us.

We start with a wondering: what do bees do in winter in the Northern hemisphere? When we no longer see them pausing to mine wildflowers or lavender and black-eyed Susan in our gardens, just what do they do in cold climates when winter is upon us?

Our thanks to our IHM Associate, beekeeper extraordinaire, and EarthCARE committee member Carolyn Flannery for sharing this information with us:

The western hemisphere honeybees (Apis Mellifera) are well adapted to cool climates and can survive the cold due to their ability to store honey and pollen and cluster together for warmth. They are fascinating insects, and necessary to our survival as a human race.

They live a brief but productive life among us. The life expectancy of a female worker bee is 4-6 weeks in busy summer months. The bees that are born in late summer and fall are made differently and have more fat stores. They are the ones who can survive in the hive for the entire winter. In the winter no foraging or brooding of new bees takes place. The bees cluster around the queen bee at the center of the hive. They shiver their wing muscles rapidly without moving their wings, thus generating heat and keeping hive temperature at around 95 degrees! And they take turns in the warmest spots of the
hives. The bees from the outside of the cluster move to inside to get warm and the bees on the inside move to outer edges to eat.

They slowly move together as one unit to reach the honey stores. Sixty to one hundred pounds of honey must be left in the hive after honey is extracted to ensure survival. As a precautionary measure, a beekeeper will make sugar candy boards to place in the hive in case honey runs out, but of course the bees prefer their own honey.

The Queen bee cannot do anything for herself. Her job is to lay eggs and she lays about twelve hundred eggs a day during the summer. The workers feed and care for all her needs and do everything else in the hive, including feeding new babies, making wax, storing honey, pollen and nectar. Their first job after they are born is to clean out their own cell to ready it for new eggs. They work from the minute they are born until they die. The only job of the male bees, called Drones, is to mate with a queen from another colony, so in the winter they are not needed, and are kicked out of the hive. 

There are countless lessons we can learn from these tiny insects about working together and self-sacrifice for the good of the whole. May we continue to honor their hidden lives during the winter months and treasure their

Our EarthCARE committee invites all to have a green Christmas as much as possible this year.

Eartheasy, at https://learn.eartheasy.com/guides/how-to-have-a-green-christmas/ offers suggestions for starting an annual, earth-friendly Christmas tradition while also honoring our planet. Give back to the earth while instilling the values of sustainable living in your children, friends, and community.

• Annual Christmas day bird count
Take your binoculars, a field guide to local birds, a small pad or journal for each participant and walk a course through your neighborhood, local park or countryside. Try to identify and count every bird you see, and make a note of it in your journal. At the end of the hike, list the species seen and number of birds per species. There’s always a surprising discovery, and the activity highlights the presence and value of our feathered friends. Compare the results from former years and you’ll become experts on your local bird population and migration habits. This is a great family activity because even the youngest eyes are just as good at spotting the birds and contributing to the event.

• Nature hike
Plan a peaceful walk through your neighborhood before the holiday meal while everyone still has lots of energy. The walk will also pique appetites and provide a shared topic for conversation during mealtime.

• Plan a “Merry Christmas to Nature” day Decorate the outdoors with edible ornaments for the birds, chipmunks, rabbits, and other neighbors.

• Visit a local animal shelter or sanctuary

• Nature restoration activity
Plant a small tree together. Tree planting symbolizes the value of nature and offsets the ‘taking’ of the Christmas tree.

• Clean up or enhance a natural area
This enriches the giver and acknowledges nature as the source of our well-being.

• Decorate a tree for the birds
Place seed bells, suet, pine cones with peanut butter, and seed trays on any tree in your yard, preferably a tree in the open where cats can be seen easily by the birds. To attract a wide variety of birds, use varied seed types such as black oil sunflower seed or wild bird mixed seed. This offers an important food source for birds during the winter.

For more ways to celebrate Christmas and honor
the Earth, check out any of these websites: www.Heifer.org Donate to Heifer International in the name of a loved one. Your donation provides livestock and sustainable agricultural training to struggling communities around the world.

Go to www.stjude.org or www.habitat.org to donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or Habitat for Humanity in the name of a loved one, living or deceased.

Closer to home, donate to our own St. Joseph’s Center or Friends of the Poor. Your donation will make a significant difference in the lives of our vulnerable neighbors.

Our EarthCARE committee wishes everyone the blessings of Advent and a Christmas season marked by giving that enhances the life of Earth, our Common Home.

Summer has departed and autumn is securing her foothold here in the Northern hemisphere. During the month of November when we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, autumn invites us into deeper reflection on a provident God who cares for all creation.

While on the surface it may appear that this is a season of dying and decay, we’re challenged to notice how the cycle of life continues yearround. The lush greening of spring and the colorful blossoming of summer have given way to a subtler and more hidden feast on our land. Native plants that we’ve nurtured through the growing season now offer berries and nuts to our neighbors, the ever-present deer, raccoons, squirrels, and our feathered friends.

Carolyn Flannery, IHM Associate and EarthCARE member, notes that when she’s out walking, she’s amazed that there is always something for animals and birds to eat, even while plants are dying and earth is getting ready for winter. New berries and seeds emerge when it looks as if nothing is abundant. “God is even more gracious and giving to us when things are a struggle,” she observes. “It’s a good reminder to me of how God generously provides for us. Sometimes we, too, have to look a little harder.”

During this autumn season, our EarthCARE committee invites all of us to “look a little harder” for signs of God’s extravagant care here on our land and on whatever paths we may walk in the days ahead. Happy Thanksgiving!

ECZucchini bread


ECelderberry jam

This time of year is all about harvest. We feast on the abundance Earth, our Common Home, has provided for us andour winged and furry friends on the IHM Center land. We offer thanks for the ways our Mother has sustained us through the springtime of greening and growing and our tending of her gifts. Now we enter autumn where our Mother shows her appreciation in her fruits ripening and maturing.

Everywhere we look at the IHM Center we see reciprocity between Earth and us on our land. Our EarthCARE committee would like to share a few juicy and delicious examples of that mutual sharing:

  • Sisters and IHM Center staff have come to the dining area to enjoy tomatoes from the garden and pears from the fruit trees.
  • Sister Ann Berendes has harvested zucchini from the vine and transformed it into delicious zucchini bread shared with local IHM Center communities.
  • During June, our feathered friends delighted in service berries. So did our human neighbors! During the IHM Center retreat in June, retreatants picked service berries which Sister Suzie Armbruster then turned into service berry cobbler for everyone.
  • Elderberries also provided a treat for the birds in our neighborhood. Sister Kathleen Lunsmann then made elderberry jam and donated it to Heartworks.

We are grateful to all who have had a hand in the planting, tending, and harvesting of these gifts of our planet.

A beautiful spirit of collaboration is renewing the face of the Earth here in Scranton. 


Earlier this year, as part of the Lenten and Easter season, Sisters residing at the IHM Center  Center planted seeds of various annuals in reused plastic containers filled with soil. These same sisters then tended to the growing annuals—zinnia, coreopsis, cardinal flower, marigold, and black-eyed Susan—until the seedlings were strong enough to be planted outside.

The next step in this growing process involved participants in the S.T.A.R.S. (Students Together Achieving Remarkable Success) program, part of a two-week summer camp utilizing Marywood University and IHM Welcoming Space facilities. S.T.A.R.S. seeks to create a middle school to college pipeline for underserved Latino/a/x youth through continuous collaboration with their families, school districts, community organizations, churches, and Marywood University’s diverse offices.


During the two-week S.T.A.R.S summer program, Donna Korba and Jan Novotka offered three morning sessions for the students about Earth Matters. This included the planting of seedlings that the Sisters had faithfully tended in their seed cups during the Lenten season.


Our EarthCARE committee offers deep thanks to the Sisters who planted and tended the seeds as well as to the S.T.A.R.S. students who joined Donna and Jan in transferring the seedlings safely outside to our land. Photos of the lovely faces of the annuals and the lovely faces of the planters are shown here along with our enduring gratitude for this tender care for our planet.

It can be wonderfully affirming when a theme we’ve been pursuing and mining finds fresh emphasis from another source.

During our Chapter of 2022, we reflected on the theme, “Let this be the time.” All through our days together, we were reminded of this focus by the colorful currents of a river on the walls of the Theresa Maxis Conference Center. We asked, “Who is in the river with me/us?” and “What is stirring in the waters?”

Now we’re invited to revisit those questions by joining the worldwide Christian community in entering into the 2023 Season of Creation. From September 1 to October 4, 2023, our EarthCARE committee invites us to pray with and explore this year’s theme of “Let Justice and Peace Flow” rooted in the prophet Amos’ cry to, “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” (Amos 5:24) It seems no coincidence that the symbol for this year’s Season of Creation is “A Mighty River,” reflecting our Chapter image of a flowing river.

During this Season of Creation, we call for justice not only for the human family but for all creation. We are called to repent of our ecological sins and to change our attitudes and actions. We are called to live in peace and to build life-giving relationships with God, the human family, ourselves, and all creation. As the people of God, we must work together as part of that mighty river of peace and justice.

More information and resources for observing the Season of Creation will be coming soon. Our EarthCARE committee is grateful for all the ways each of us continues to take up climate and ecological justice and speak out for communities most impacted by the loss of biodiversity.

Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Phoebe
White tail Deer
White Tailed Deer
White breasted Nuthatch
White Breasted Nuthatch
Chipmonk in tree

Meet the Neighbors

Dawn is our time.
Heavens swell
with cheep and trill and warble.
Birdsong you say,
but long to read the notes.
Hue and region name us:
Northern Cardinal, Red Winged
Blackbird, Eastern Phoebe.
And sideways climber, White
Breasted Nuthatch.

Mud and damp and marsh:
Home to us and our tribe.
In sun, we bask.
In reeds, conceal.
In knots, congregate.

White tailed deer:
Spindly legs
and ears alert,
we graze, secure.
Within these woods
and grassy plains,
we sense what peace can be
and gather, absent fear.

Welcome! Welcome, kin!
Please live in praise among

“It is a good and holy thing to work with the earth, plant seeds, and tend them.”
(USCCB Pastoral Center, May 21, 2023)

Wild Geranium

Black Chokeberry

on this holy land,
we tread gently.
We name
Wild Geranium, living mulch.
Heartleaf Foamflower, friend of the shadows.
Serviceberry Tree, blueberry’s twin, beloved of birds.
Neighbors at home in our Friendship Garden.

on this holy land,
we move gratefully.
We name
Sweetbay Magnolia, scent
made in heaven.
Black Chokeberry, jam on morning toast.
Courtyard neighbors.

on this holy land,
we walk with mystery,
wondering as we work
by what dear name
our kin might call us?

plant1Serviceberry Tree

EarthCARE offers thanks to our dear friend and EarthCARE committee member Jan Novotka for providing the following information on ground covers, sometimes called “living mulch.”

The benefits of this type of ground cover are many. Ground cover:
• provides habitat and offers a source of food for pollinators
• suppresses weeds 
• replaces wood mulch which is expensive, needs to be replaced each year, and involves back-breaking work when laborers are few
• protects against erosion
• keeps moisture from evaporating quickly, retains moisture longer in times of drought, and absorbs moisture better during rainy seasons
• beautifies an area
• keeps soil cooler in summer heat
• adds diversity to an ecosystem
• may be a host plant for specific species of butterflies or moths which are vital to the food chain of the ecosystem.

The EarthCARE committee has ordered 200 small plugs, which are small seedlings suitable for ground cover. Most of these plugs will find a home in our Friendship Garden. Since the plugs will arrive in two separate shipments, plantings will take place in both May and June. In May, the plan is for the Penn State Master Gardeners to offer an informative presentation on “living mulch” and then help to plant the first two types of ground cover received.

The plants chosen for our ground cover are the Green and Gold, Chrysogonum virginianum; the Wild Geranium, Geranium maculatum; and the Golden Ragwort, Senecio aureus.

Ground covers are quickly becoming one of the most important additions to eco-landscaping. When we live in kinship with natural habitats such as woodlands, we see that ground covers have always been a vital part of an ecosystem. We are delighted to learn from and welcome living mulch back into this land we call home!

Greenandgold Chrysogonum virginianum (002)
Green and Gold
Golden Ragwort (002)
Golden Ragwort
(Senecio aureus)
wildgeranium (002)
Wild Geranium

Every April 22nd, people from around the world come together to advance sustainability and climate action in commemoration of Earth Day. Earth Day
calls us to hold governments and the private sector accountable for their role in our environmental crisis while also calling for bold, creative, and innovative solutions.

This echoes our IHM public statement as part of the Laudato Si Action Platform, where we have committed to restoring right relationship with the created world and to using imagination, creativity, and fresh thinking to bring about God’s dream for the flourishing of our beautiful and wounded world.

The theme for Earth Day 2023 is “Invest in Our Planet.” This theme highlights the importance of dedicating our time, resources, and energy to solving
climate change and other environmental issues. Investing in our planet is necessary to protect it and also to support healthy and happy communities

Go to EARTHDAY.ORG for more information and for additional ways to invest in our planet:

• Plant Trees - The reforestation campaign has planted tens of millions of trees over the last decade, often for as little as $1.00 per tree.
• Reduce Plastic Consumption - Make a plan to reduce your plastic consumption using our plastic calculator.
• Participate in Advocacy - Send a letter to your local elected officials, speak up at your next town hall meeting, or sign an Earth Day petition.
• Sustainable Fashion - Learn about the detrimental impacts of fast fashion, the importance of sustainable fashion, and commit to responsible       consumption.

Our EarthCARE committee thanks all who continue to love and protect Mother Earth not only on Earth Day, April 22nd, but on every day of every year.

This month, as we begin to see hints of Earth’s greening once again, our EarthCARE committee recommends an amazing read, a book that’s described by Elizabeth Gilbert as “a hymn of love to the world.” That book is "Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.”

Author Robin Wall Kimmerer is a scientist, mother, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology, member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment.

As a freshman contemplating a major in college, she was torn between botany and poetry. She chose botany, but fortunately for us, she never lost the heart of a poet, and this book gives evidence of her poetic sense of sound and rhythm, image and contemplative delight.

The Preface to Kimmerer’s book testifies to the art of attentiveness to life and explores the revelations of the garden. “Hold out your hands,” she writes, “and let me lay upon them a sheaf of freshly picked sweetgrass, loose and flowing, like newly washed hair…. Hold the bundle up to your nose. Find the fragrance of honeyed vanilla over the scent of river water and black earth and you understand its scientific name: Hierochloe odorata, meaning the fragrant, holy grass. In our language it is called wiingaashk, the sweet-smelling hair of Mother Earth. Breathe it in and you start to remember things you didn’t know you’d forgotten.”

Those “things” are a braid of stories meant to heal and return us to right relationship with our world: indigenous ways of knowing, scientific knowledge, and the story of an Anishinabekwe scientist trying to bring them together in service to what matters most. This book is imagined as medicine for our broken relationship with earth, a pharmacopoeia of healing stories that allow us to imagine a different relationship, one in which people and land are good medicine for each other.

You can listen to or read a transcript of Kimmerer’s On Being interview with Krista Tippett, “The Intelligence of Plants,” https://onbeing.org/programs/robin-wall-kimmerer-the-intelligence-of-plants-2022/ Jane Goodall enthuses, “It is the way she captures beauty that I love the most—the images will stay with you long after you read the last page.” 

Donna K -Earthcare Feb 2023
Sister Donna 

In the Northern hemisphere, winter is a good time for pruning woody landscape plants. Trees and shrubs are dormant from November to March when the ground is frozen and the sap stays in the roots. There’s a clear connection between the winter season of pruning trees and the season of Lent, the spiritual pruning of whatever stands in the way of fuller life and growth of the spirit as well as hopeful and patient waiting for ultimate flowering at a later time.

Our EarthCARE committee thanks Carolyn and Pat Flannery, Jan Novotka, Donna Korba, Kathy Kurdziel, Karen O’Neill, and Carol Loughney for practicing the outer pruning on our land plan. And our thanks to Jan Novotka and Donna Korba for providing the following parallel between winter land care and the deep, inner soul work of Lent.

Pruning to Let the Light In: The Black Hawthorn Tree in the Friendship Garden

Carolyn and Pat bravely took on the challenging task of pruning the branches of the Hawthorn tree with its one-inch-long thorns, first clearing lower branches to make space for future weeding and planting, then removing branches that grew inward so they would no longer block light, and finally trimming the Hawthorn’s tallest branches, opening the tree to more sunlight and a new shape.

Pruning for the Sake of New Growth: Elderberries

Kathy, Carol, and Jan accepted the straightforward task of cutting these branches to chin-high level, taking care to cut just above a pair of nodes so that
in the spring, when the buds begin to grow into new branches, energy can flow easily.

Pruning for Overall Health: The Silver Maple

The Silver Maple tree near the pollinator garden has been struggling, with lifeless branches on the northern side but healthy branches on the southern side. Because of the pruning of the lifeless branches, the remaining tree now has a chance at a fuller, healthier life.

Removal of All That Creates Imbalance: Invasive Species

The four-to-six-foot-tall invasive Scotch (Bull) Thistle does not easily let go. Sharp spines along the stem and seed head cling to clothing and easily puncture even heavy leather gloves, a reminder of how challenging it can be to restore and create balance in the ecosystem.

Winter Seed Sowing: Spreading Seed Heads from New England Aster and Showy Goldenrod

In late fall, Jan removed the heads from these native plants that were growing in her yard and bagged them so that they could be broadcast on the land at the IHM Center. Donna and Karen spread the collected seed heads along the hillside down from OLP and the slope down from the IHM Center, planting the promise of new life to come.

Our EarthCARE committee offers a hurrah for all those who pruned, weeded, sowed, cared for and prayed for our neighbors on the IHM Land Plan as we look forward in hope to the blooming of risen life in the spring.

With the ease and speed social media offers for conveying messages, letter writing sometimes appears to be a vanishing art. So when an actual letter arrives in the mail, we feel its significance and pay attention to its tone and content.

That’s the hope behind “The Letter,” a film that premiered at the Vatican on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4, 2022. “The Letter: A Message for Our Earth” is a documentary devoted to protecting and saving Earth, our Common Home. “The Letter” connects with Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical, Laudato Si, a letter that speaks about the wounding of Earth and the challenge to live and act in ways that are for her healing and for the common good.

The trailer for the film features four protagonists speaking from personal experience of the effects of climate change: Arouna Kandé, forced to leave his home in Senegal due to desertification; Chief Cacique Dada from the Amazon, sharing how indigenous peoples are protecting some 80% of the world’s biodiversity; Dr. Greg Asner and Dr. Robin Martin, marine biologists calling attention to the suffering of wildlife, especially the coral reefs; Ridhima Pandey, a high school student who was a member of a group that submitted groundbreaking lawsuits to hold governments accountable for their climate inaction. You can view the trailer at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3EBHebH17Y

On November 13, 2022, our EarthCARE committee hosted the annual Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light (PAIPL) conference at the Welcoming Space of the IHM Center. In addition to a keynote Zoomed from the Pittsburgh location, those in attendance listened to two local presenters, Emily Holtsmaster and Tannis Kowalchuk (Willow Wisp Farms). 

The link to the conference is here: https://video.ibm.com/recorded/132287238

We call your attention to Emily Holtsmaster’s presentation, which begins at 1:10 on the video. It’s not often that we can see so clearly laid out before us the transformation of a young person’s life through her experience, discernment, and discovery of her passion.

Emily’s remarks began with a tribute to all those who influenced her formative years and who lived by the words, “Love is shown more in deeds than words.” Her parents taught her respect for all living creatures as well as the importance of service in becoming women and men for others. Her high school years at Scranton Prep emphasized the implications of every action and the desire to direct all to the greater glory of God.

Emily’s desire to be of service led her to consider the medical field, and so she studied at Marywood University with the intention of becoming a Physician’s Assistant. In her sophomore year, she traveled to San Lucas, Guatemala to assist with a medical clinic. Working with the poor who were so terribly impacted by climate change and seeing global inequality up close led her to a deeper discernment. Marywood professor Sara Melick, an integral member of our EarthCARE committee, mentored Emily in following her heart. This accompaniment enabled Emily to notice that her desire to be of service in the medical field was shifting towards a desire to be of service in another way: in the work of environmental justice. Emily is now attending law school to become an environmental lawyer, to help people by fighting for environmental justice for the most vulnerable among us.

At our IHM Assembly, we began offering responses to the question, “To what is Earth calling us?” As we continue answering that question in our reflection and practices, our EarthCARE committee invites us to journey further into an understanding of Laudato Si and Care for Creation.

Beginning in Advent 2022 and continuing throughout the liturgical year, the committee will be sharing a weekly Liturgical Reflection/Action piece from the Pastoral Center under the title, “The Word, The World, The Wisdom.”

We are including the first piece for the beginning of Advent here: November 27, 2022, First Week of Advent.

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” Isaiah 2:4

In Isaiah’s day, technology advancements often focused on military weapons and defense (sound familiar?). Yet his vision for the future was of a society that focused on growing food and tending the earth rather than destroying it and its people.

What technology do you use that doesn’t contribute to your flourishing or that of your family, community, or the earth?

How might you use technology for the restoration of the environment or the betterment of others this week?”

What Does Earth Ask of Us?

As we continue our celebration of the Season of Creation and our journey into the heart of Laudato Si, our EarthCARE committee invites us to reflect on the collective wisdom gathered at our Assembly in July 2022. In response to the question, “What does Earth ask of us?”, we noticed two overall themes surfacing: Relationship and Awareness/Action. We’ve grouped the responses on these themes and are grateful for your shared wisdom.

What does Earth ask of us: RELATIONSHIP
• Calling Earth Mother; don’t objectify her!
• Achieving a relationship of reciprocal healing
• Fostering intentional interconnection that leads to embraced interdependence
• Inviting Earth and the things of Earth back into the Church—water, wine, wheat, palm, oil, flame, flowers, seeds.
The more Earth is sacred in our faith, the more we will be reverent toward creation. Our perception will gradually shift from seed to sacrament!

What does Earth ask of us: AWARENESS/ACTION
• Educating in ways that can change our behavior
• Understanding the ramifications of our choices and decisions on the lives of others in the global
community. Consider pollution, fracking, deforestation, food insecurity, loss of valuable native species of plants and animals, water scarcity, waste of food and energy
• Collaborating to protect and save resources
• Recognizing beauty and treating it with reverence and awe
• Cultivating Ecological Spirituality—kindness, love, respect, delight, reverence, learn from Earth’s wisdom
• Intentionally respect all forms of life, acknowledge creation’s holiness, care for the Earth and each other
• Taking responsibility for our own attitudes and actions towards the Earth
• Being aware and making good changes
• Re-reading Laudato Si and the IHM Reflection Book. Begin with the reflection by Rabbi Swartz. Share thoughts, actions and prayers.

As we’ve been working this year on integrating the goals of Laudato Si, both personally and collectively, the EarthCARE Committee now invited us to enter into and celebrate the Season of Creation. The Season began on September 1, 2022, the World Day of Prayer for Creation, and ends on October 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. During this time, we join the ecumenical family around the world in praying for and protecting Earth, Our Common Home.

This year’s Season of Creation will unite around the theme, “Listen to the Voice of Creation.” Our common prayer and action can help us listen for the voices of those who are silenced. In prayer we lament the individuals, communities, species, and ecosystems who are lost as well as those whose livelihoods are threatened by habitat loss and climate change. May we live more deeply into our Direction Statement as we “intentionally engage in actions that reflect God’s unconditional love for all creation and the transformation of the world.”

In his Encyclical “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis says that “Human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with neighbor, and with Earth.”

Francis calls the Catholic Community, really all of humanity, to a journey toward integral ecology (from the Greek “oikos” meaning household), an integrated or balanced household. Over the past seven months the EarthCARE Committee has invited the congregation and associates to read,
reflect, pray, and take some action each month on one of the specific Laudato Si goals. Sisters and associates were invited to share their wisdom and insights on each goal.

At the IHM Assembly, many more of us were gathered. Sister Donna’s hope is that we will choose to go deeper into what integral ecology might mean for us as we look at our new Direction Statement 2022-2026, and our Charism and Core Values and continue with our deeper contemplative conversations.

“Action on behalf of life transforms. Because relationship between self and the world is reciprocal, it is not a question of first getting enlightened or saved and then acting. As we work to heal Earth, Earth heals us.” (Robin W. Kemmerer)

If you were not at assembly, try to picture yourself as one point of color within a painting done in the style of pointalism. (Pointalism is a painting technique made entirely of dots of color juxtaposed so that up close one sees individual dots of color and from a distance the dots transform into an image)

Imagine yourself as one dot. Contemplate: What is Earth asking of me? Imagine the entire picture. Then ask: What is Earth asking of IHM?

Our EarthCARE Committee reminds us that, although we have come to Goal #7 of the Laudato Si action platform, we have not in any way finished caring for and listening to the cries of the Earth. In many ways, we have only begun this lifelong process.

Goal #7 invited us to reflect on our level of community participation in response to Pope Francis’ Laudato Si. Sisters, Associates, and Partners in
Mission shared some of the actions taken in response to Goal #7. The largest percentage, nearly 93% of respondents, indicated that they had engaged in ecological conversations. Others had participated in tree planting events, participated in or planned an outdoor event focused on the environment, or visited public officials to share their concern for the Earth and to invite further public action.

Helping with gardening, advocating for more public trash cans, conserving water and electricity, and praying for our world formed the largest amount of actions. One person also indicated participation in an experience of forest therapy, being aware of what one saw, heard, felt, and smelled while in a forested area.

Our EarthCARE Committee thanks all who have participated in this process of reflecting and acting on the goals of the Laudato Si action platform, and urges all to continue with our congregational commitment.


Pictured are some members of the EarthCARE Committee with Doug Tallamy before the April 7 2022 presentation. L-R front: Sisters Liz McGill, Terri Jordan, Chris Koellhoffer, Maureen Willis, Kathy Kurdziel, Jean Coughlin. L-R back: Sara Melick, Sisters Carol Loughney, Karen Steinberg,
Dr. Doug Tallamy, Jan Novotka, Sisters Karen Marie O’Neill, Beth Pearson, Donna Korba

With many other congregations of women and men religious, we have been on a journey of deeper engagement with the goals of Laudato Si the past two years. Since December 2021, our EarthCARE committee has offered us reflection material and suggested actions each month to help us take action around Pope Francis’ encyclical about Earth, our Common Home. When Pope Francis wrote this encyclical in 2015, he could not have
imagined the suffering our planet would have to endure in the seven years since then.

We’re now approaching Goal #7, Community Involvement and Participatory Action. Although this is the last of the stated goals, this is by no means the end of the journey. We’re invited to continue to consider ways to engage in meaningful and necessary dialogue for the planet and to participate in and/or support organized events and gatherings. These include but are not limited to tree plantings, walks and bike rides for climate change awareness, eco-educational opportunities and eco-retreats, and advocacy for policies which uphold sound ecological practices.

Doug Tallamy Presents to IHM and Marywood Communities

On April 7, a long-time dream was realized when the IHM EarthCARE Committee in collaboration with Marywood University (thanks to Sister Mary Persico) hosted an evening presentation by Dr. Doug Tallamy, Professor of Agriculture in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware.

Doug has authored more than 106 research publications and various best seller books, Bringing Nature Home, Nature’s Best Hope, The Nature of Oaks, on the importance of planting native species of flora as a means to conservation and the best hope for the future of planet Earth and her creatures. Doug challenged the audience to reimagine landscaping, backyards, conservation, and insects. Doug’s stressed the importance of realizing the human relationship with nature and the non-negotiable task of creating native landscapes in the spaces where we live as a means to restore ecosystems for the insects and other creatures often overlooked but vital to the web of life.

Although the presentation educated, inspired, and motivated those present, the takeaway was that everyone can be and needs to be a part of conservation for the well-being of the planet! “Our privately owned land and the ecosystems upon it are essential to everyone’s well-being, not just our own. Abusing land anywhere has negative ramifications for people everywhere,” said Doug.

Nearly 300 persons attended the event and many traveled from other counties on that rainy evening. The Penn State Master Gardeners, Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light (PAIPL), the Marywood University Seed Bank, The Lackawanna River Conservation Association (LRCA), and The Coalition
on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) were cosponsors of the event who took the opportunity to display information about their organizations and upcoming events.

EarthCARE invited Doug to breakfast the following morning where ideas were shared. Doug did a walk-through of the IHM Land Restoration and offered some helpful advice as we move forward. 

To view the Doug Tallamy (Nature’s Best Hope) presentation go to: https://video.ibm.com/recorded/131644595

The Goals of Laudato Si

We’ve been spending time on the goals of Laudato Si since December 2021. This month, our EarthCARE committee invites us to focus our attention
and action on Goal #6 of the Laudato Si Action Platform. Goal #6 calls us to live a simple lifestyle for the sake of all who are part of Earth, our Common Home.

Pope Francis reminds us that to live a simpler life is liberating. Living this way fosters greater intentionality and fewer distractions. When we live simply, we can become more aware of the wonders of God’s creation which remain hidden in a life of consumerism. We can enjoy the things that matter and let go of those that do not. We can foster an ecological conversion.

Goal #6 builds on our December focus on Cry of the Earth; our January focus on Ecological Spirituality; our February focus on Ecological Economics; our March focus on Cry of the Poor; and our April focus on Ecological Education.

All are part of the Laudato Si Action platform, a seven-year journey of listening to and acting on Earth’s voice. In this journey, we join with other congregations of religious in creating a public statement of our commitment to Earth, our Common Home.

Laudato Sí Goal #5

This month, our EarthCARE committee invites us to focus our reflection, energy, and action on Goal #5 of the Laudato Si Action Platform. Goal #5 centers on Ecological Education, not only the study and teaching of ecology but also the making of informed lifestyle changes grounded on sound ecological learnings, values, and responsibilities.

Ecological Education calls us to the profound conversion that is needed in order to meet the challenges of our cultural and ecological crisis. We are urged to seek balance and harmony with God, within ourselves, and among all creation. This is a moral and ethical choice rooted in our identity as people of God.

Goal #5 follows our December focus on Goal #1, Cry of the Earth; our January focus on Goal #2, Ecological Spirituality; our February focus on Goal #3, Ecological Economics; and our March focus on Goal #4, Cry of the Poor. All are part of the Laudato Si Action Platform, a seven-year journey that calls us to listen to Earth’s voice and act on what we hear. As part of this journey, we joined with other congregations of women and men religious in creating a public statement of our commitment to Earth, our Common Home.

Laudato Sí Goal #4

We have now arrived at Goal #4 of the Laudato Sí Action Platform. During the month of March, our EarthCARE committee invites us to center our prayer, time, and action on this goal, which focuses on Cry of the Poor.

Cry of the Poor underscores that we are one single human family, meant to live in connection to one another. Pope Francis sees this connection between the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor, since both Earth and people living in poverty are harmed by ecological degradation. Both the cries of Earth and the cries of the poor appeal to our renewed sense of responsibility.

Goal #4 follows our December focus on Goal #1, Cry of the Earth; our January focus on Goal #2, Ecological Spirituality; and our February focus on Goal #3, Ecological Economics. All are part of the Laudato Sí Action Platform, a seven-year journey that calls us to listen to Earth’s voice and act on what we hear. As part of this journey, we joined with other congregations of women and men religious in creating a public statement of our commitment to Earth, our Common Home. 

What's Been Happening with Our Commitment to January's Laudato Sí Action Goal?

Each month, our EarthCARE committee invites us into reflection and action around a particular month’s Laudato Sí goal. In this newsletter, we would like to highlight some of the responses we received after January’s survey on Ecological Spirituality. We are grateful to all who took the time to share their commitments with us and to acknowledge Sara Melick and Donna Korba for creating and interpreting the survey responses.

In January, the largest number of respondents indicated these commitments to Ecological Spirituality: Cultivate a potted plant; sit in awe of nature every day; awaken sensitivity to the interconnectedness of all creation. Other comments included composting; eliminating bottled water use; heightening water awareness connected to the area in which one lives; responding to environmental action alerts via email; caring for houseplants as a reminder that this attention is also caring for Earth, our Common Home.

What's Happening with Our Commitment to the Laudato Si' Action Goals?

Each month, our EarthCARE committee invites us into reflection and action around a particular month’s Laudato Si’ goal.

Thanks to Sara Melick and Donna Korba who created and interpreted the survey results from our March focus on Cry of the Poor, we can report that the largest number of respondents indicated they were taking steps to live more simply and reduce consumption and waste. Other comments indicated actions of reusing and recycling; donating to Ukraine; sticking to a budget; decluttering; nursing plants back to fullness of life; growing in awareness of need vs. want. Remarkably, 100% of respondents noted they would be able to continue their actions for the sustainability of our planet.

This month we would like to highlight some of the responses we received after February’s survey on Ecological Economics and to thank all who took the time to share their commitments with us. We would also like to thank and acknowledge Sara Melick and Donna Korba for creating and interpreting the survey

In February, the largest number of respondents indicated they researched and purchased items based on sustainability. Other comments indicated actions taken for recycling, composting, limiting the consumption of red meat and dairy products, using water sparingly, limiting unnecessary travel, and writing to politicians on behalf of the environment. Over 86% of respondents indicated they would be able to continue their actions for the sustainability
of our planet.

During this month of February, the EarthCARE committee invites all of us to place our reflection, attention, and action on Goal #3 of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. Goal #3 centers on Ecological Economics, offering a bridge across not only ecology and economics, but also psychology, anthropology, archaeology,and history. All of these elements are needed to get a more integrated picture of the ways we humans have interacted with the environment in the past and how we might interact in the future. Ecological Economics is an attempt to view ourselves as embedded in our ecological life-support system, not separate from it.

Goal #3 follows our focus on Goal #1, Cry of the Earth, in December, and Goal #2, Ecological Spirituality, in January. All of these are part of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, a seven-year journey that calls us to listen to Earth’s voice and act on what we hear. As part of this journey, we joined with other congregations of women and men religious in creating a public statement of our commitment to Earth, our Common Home.

Each month, our EarthCARE committee invites us into reflection and action around a particular month’s Laudato Si’ goal. After December, when we focused on Cry of the Earth, our EarthCARE committee initiated a survey to see what actions sisters, associates and partners in mission were able to undertake. We would like to highlight some of those responses each month and thank all who took the time to share their commitments with us. We would also like to thank and acknowledge Sara Melick and Donna Korba for creating and interpreting the survey responses.

In December, (Cry of the Earth theme), the largest percentage of respondents indicated these commitments: turn off lights and TVs when not in use; say NO to bottled water; take inventory of waste/garbage volume and reduce where possible; listen within for Earth’s cry.

Other comments included taking care of the yard where respondents live; raising tomatoes and pumpkin for eating and sharing; avoiding unnecessary purchases of any kind; eating meat only 2-3 times per month; iving more simply…less clothing, less food waste, less paper.

We are inspired by and grateful to all those who chose to share their commitments, and we invite all to continue to do the same each month with every new goal. Many thanks!

Laudato Si’ Action Platform—Ecological Spirituality

Our EarthCARE committee invites us to continue our reflection on the goals of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. This Action Platform is a seven-year journey that calls us to listen to Earth’s voice and act on what we hear. On this journey, we joined other congregations of women and men religious in creating a public statement of our commitment to Earth, our Common Home.

In December, we focused on Laudato Si’ Action Platform Goal #1, Cry of the Earth. Our communal reflection process included prayer, practices to act on this goal, and commitment questions to consider as we grow in awareness of the rapid diminishment of our planet.

In January, we will focus on Goal #2, Ecological Spirituality. This goal calls us to a profound spiritual conversion, an awakening to the interconnectedness of all things. We commit ourselves to the mission of loving, cherishing and protecting the gift of God’s life within us and holding sacred the life of the world and the mystery of the universe.

Laudato Si’ Action Platform

On November 14, 2021, we joined with people around the world in marking the official launch of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. This Action Platform is a process and an ongoing seven-year journey of listening to Earth’s voice and acting upon what we hear.

Our deep listening to the voice of our planet also impelled our IHM Congregation to join congregations of women and men religious in creating a public statement of our commitment to Earth, our Common Home. This statement was included below.

As part of our commitment to listen and act, our EarthCARE committee is sending each month an IHM communal reflection sheet in a digital format. For the month of December, our focus is on Laudato Si’ Goal #1: “Cry of the Earth.” Listening to the Cry of the Earth holds an invitation to open wide our hearts and our minds to the rapid diminishment of Earth and to embrace the ecological challenges of these days when some of Earth’s biological
systems are being pushed past a safe threshold.

Be on the lookout for the Laudato Si’ IHM Communal Reflection Process, which will include more information on Goal #1, “Cry of the Earth,” as well as a prayer, practices to act on this goal, and commitment questions to consider.

With Pope Francis, may our reflection and action lead us to turn what is happening to our beautiful yet wounded world “into our own personal suffering, and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.”

Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Scranton, PA
Laudato Sí Action Platform Commitment Statement

The unconditional love of the Holy One embraces all creation.
This boundless and inclusive love summons us IHM Sisters
to live in radical interdependence and kinship with our fragile and precious planet.

We align ourselves with the spirit of Laudato Si
and pledge our time, energy, and resources to collaborate with others
on a 7 year journey of education, advocacy, and action
for the sake of Earth, our Common Home.

We commit to restoring right relationship with the created world
and to using imagination, creativity, and fresh thinking
to bring about God’s dream
for the flourishing of our beautiful and wounded world.

Does Earth have a voice?

Clearly, our Common Home is communicating with us in this present moment in ways both subtle and emphatic. We lament how she weeps and groans over all that is being lost in this time of accelerating climate change. At the same time, we are hopeful when we see how our beautiful yet wounded planet responds to individual and collective acts of compassion and care for her well-being.

This present moment is the time for both a listening to her voice and an acting on it. On November 14, we will mark the official launch of the Laudato Si Action Platform across the globe. Our IHM congregation joins congregations of women and men religious by creating a public statement of our commitment to this beloved planet. Our statement highlights our IHM charism, core values, and direction statement.

The Action Platform is a process and an ongoing journey. After the launch on November 14, the EarthCARE committee will send an IHM Communal Reflection sheet in a digital format each month on the following ongoing goals:

December: Cry of the Earth
January: Ecological Spirituality
February: Ecological Economics
March: Cry of the Poor
April: Ecological Education
May: Simple Lifestyle
June: Community Participation

The reflection sheet will include the monthly goal, a reflection, a brief prayer, and a few suggestions for action. We invite you to use the reflection material and consider committing to a suggestion or action of your choice. At the end of each month, we will send a Google form inviting each participant’s wisdom. Responses will serve as a roadmap on our common journey towards Integral Ecology.

Fiesta of Flowers and All Things Native

Shared with you here are some of the fruits of the Land Restoration at the IHM Center. The planting of and care for native species of flora is a crucial step in “bringing about God’s dream for this beautiful, yet wounded world.”

NY Ironweed with Monarch Butterfly and Carpenter Bee
  NY ironweed with monarch butterfly
  and carpenter bee
Butterfly bench overlooking pollinator garden
                Butterfly garden
Monarch Caterpiller on Swamp Milkweed
  Monarch caterpillar on swamp 
Wetland area full of native perennials
   Wetland area full of native perennials
blue flag iris
                 Blue flag iris
Bunch of Ripe Elderberry
                 Ripe elderberry
Sungold Cherry Tomatoes
       Sungold Cherry Tomatoes

Tomato 2021
Pear Tree 2021
                Pear Tree

During the month of June, children from ages 10-14 had the opportunity to attend an Environmental Stewardship camp on Marywood’s campus and the IHM Land Restoration site. The summer camp educated students to be better environmental stewards while embodying Marywood University’s core value of Respect by caring for the Earth and all creation through a commitment to sustainability.

ecPlantViolets2 copy

ecNativePlantsWalkJan copy 2

ecNativePlantsWalkJan2 copy

The Environmental Stewardship camp was the inspiration of our dear friend and EarthCARE member, Sara Melick, with assistance from EarthCARE committee members. Sara is a Marywood University professor and instructor in environmental science, and we are most grateful to her for initiating this program and for providing the information for this month’s EarthCARE update.

In providing a recap of the summer camp week for students’ parents, Sara wrote this impressive summary of all that the girls had been involved in:

Monday: Students learned about the IHM Center’s Land Restoration site and engaged in an activity about watersheds.

Tuesday: The group toured the Architecture Building and learned about their sustainability initiative, including the green roof and geothermal heat. In a hands-on project, students used natural dyes made from turmeric, spinach, and blueberries to tie dye T-shirts.

Wednesday: Students learned about the importance of planting native plants. They completed a scavenger hunt, planted violets in the pollinator garden, and helped to disperse native seeds around the restoration site.

Thursday: The group made a model composter with a variety of different materials (food scraps, grass, biodegradable packaging, plastics) and predicted which items would compost well. Campers were asked to keep the rubber stopper on the bottle and to place it in the sunshine and observe the composter at least once a week for the next three weeks, writing their observations. It was heartening to learn that many of the campers were already doing so many great reduce-reuse-recycle practices at home and that some are doing composting on a regular basis. The students also decorated reusable canvas tote bags.

Our EarthCARE committee is grateful to all who participated or assisted in the Environmental Stewardship summer camp in witnessing to our IHM Direction Statement, using “imagination, creativity, and fresh thinking to bring about God’s dream for our beautiful, yet wounded world.”

Photos above are courtesy of Sara Melick

It has taken a village and then some, but thanks to the work of many hands and hearts, our pollinator garden behind the IHM Center is now both blooming and thriving.

On May 26, 2021, the actual planting of the garden took place. Four members of our IHM EarthCARE committee—Sister Donna Korba, Jan Novotka, Sara Melick, and Carolyn Flannery, along with six Master Gardeners from Penn State Cooperative Extension, Lackawanna County, helped with the planting. We owe a special debt of gratitude to Jill Baer (Master Gardeners Coordinator), Michele Davis, and Judy Coleman, the team of Master Gardeners who journeyed with us for over a year in the planning of this project. Without their guidance and a grant from Penn State Cooperative Extension, this pollinator garden would not have been possible. Thanks also to Sister Kate Clancy for donating hours of labor in helping with this project from start to finish, and to Jan Novotka for gathering the information for this update.


We introduced native species new to our community of life because they offer the most nutrition to insects and also provide crucial breeding and survival habitats. Without species native to an Eco-region, insect species and communities cannot and will not survive. We list the Latin botanical names of our new neighbors here in order to identify the natives accurately:

Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), a shrub

We also welcomed these perennial flowers:
Scarlet Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)
Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Eastern Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
Dense Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)
Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya)
Aromatic Aster (Aster oblongifolius)
Thin-leaved Sunflower (Helianthus decapetalus)
Early Sunflower (Helianthus helianthoides)
Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)
Short-toothed Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum muticum)
Wild Blue Indigo (Baptisia australis)
Lance-leaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)
Common Viola/Violet (Viola sororia)

In addition to this list of native perennials, we planted annual flowers, many of which were started by our sisters at OLP and the IHM Center. We also added some fragrant herbs that attract pollinators. These will serve as fillers until the native plants increase in size.

Pollinator gardenIMG_7815

In our desire to practice conservation, we installed a drip irrigation system that will save time and also conserve our precious resource of water. With all these native plants now at home in the pollinator garden, we suspect the greatest challenge to their survival will be groundhogs and deer. We hope that these animal neighbors will find a salad bar apart from the pollinator garden.

Our EarthCARE committee invites all to visit and explore the pollinator garden, to appreciate the variety, beauty, and fragrance of our newest neighbors, and to join in gratitude for the gifts that have been given by so many. 

Sometimes it may appear that creation spirituality is an entirely new understanding of our relationship to all beings. Yet we have evidence from our IHM Archives that care for the earth and its creatures was embodied in our IHM ancestors many years ago. 

Sister Mary Ann Cody honors her
sister and friend, Sister Claire 
Kulp, with flowers at St. Catherine's
Cemetery in Moscow, PA.

Sister Stephanie, who spent twenty-three years caring for orphans at Saint Patrick’s and the foundlings at Saint Joseph’s, carried her love of nature into her nurturing relationship with children. “To her, childhood was a garden of roses and the little men and women who filled it were to her precious plants which she carefully nurtured. Their bloom gave her inspiration.” Sister Beth Pearson, our IHM Archivist and a member of our EarthCARE committee, recently unearthed a recollection published in Sister Immaculata Gillespie’s history of the IHMs. The memory is of Sister M. Stephanie Bedlow, included as part of comments following her death on March 12, 1905. An anonymous Sister who knew her well wrote: “Sister Stephanie was no ordinary woman. She ever saw blue skies and pleasant sunshine, she never missed the song of birds or the fragrance of the flowers. She was a naturalist and she lived with nature.”

She seemed to have a mystic’s understanding of the life force in all creation, as evidenced in this observation from one of her sisters: “I cannot think of a pretty bed of roses or scent a beautiful rose without a thought of Sister Stephanie. I had seen her so often among the flowers that I felt she was related to them. It was she who laid out and transformed into a beautiful garden the lawn in front of Saint Joseph’s Home. In the garden, hard at work in the dawn of a summer’s morning, you would find Sister Stephanie. She trained the flowers as she did the children. She inspired character in her rose beds. With a motherless babe by the hand, Sister Stephanie could be seen in the flower garden early and late.”

What an affirmation to discover that the work of our EarthCARE committee and all who support this work is grounded in the vision of our IHM ancestors! May we continue to mine the wisdom of those who have gone before us and be lifelong learners in the school of our beautiful, yet wounded, world.


The sisters of Shalom Community, Margaret Gannon, John Michele Southwick, Carrie Flood and Fran Fasolka arranged for the purchase and planting of a dogwood tree on the Marywood University campus in memory of Sister Dorothy Haney who served on the faculty there for forty years.

bumble bee
Photo by Emma Morgan, Unsplash

Photo by Hush Naidoo, Unsplash

During this season of spring when our bee neighbors and their ministry as pollinators become more visible, our EarthCARE committee invites us to reflect on the work of these amazing creatures who illustrate our Core Values of Community, Wholeness, and Respect for Diversity. Three Foragers Bee Company (https://www.threeforagers.ca/), located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, offers a list of 10 Undeniable Reasons to Love Bees. Some of them are listed in this EarthCARE Update:

We rely on bees to pollinate tons of delicious fruits and vegetables that we eat every day. As bees visit plants looking for nectar, they pick up and deposit pollen. This pollination allows crops from apples to cauliflower to flourish. Without visits from bees, some of these plants would cease to exist.

There’s a reason why the term “busy as a bee” exists. Bees are always doing something to help the colony thrive, whether it be gathering nectar, raising their young, forming honeycomb, or protecting the hive. Bees are always keeping busy and working hard.

Bees have a brain the size of a sesame seed, so it’s surprising how intelligent they are. In one experiment at the Queen Mary University of London, bees were shown that moving a ball into a particular spot gave them a reward of sugar water.The bees learned the connection between moving the ball into place and earning a reward. This led to bees repeating the behavior.

Not only did the bees learn, but when new bees saw the trained bees moving the balls and earning rewards, they started doing the same thing! The bees were teaching and learning from each other.

Have you ever wondered why bees use hexagons instead of, say, circles to store their honey?

It seems that bees have a fundamental understanding of engineering, and they know that a hexagon is a stable and efficient shape for their hives. Circles would leave gaps between the honeycombs. Squares and triangles fit together but aren’t the best mix of storage space and strength. Hexagons, on the other hand, use the least amount of material to hold the most weight. It seems as though all bees graduate with an honorary engineering degree!

From spring to the fall, bees help flowers prosper. Fields of beautiful wildflowers and meadows rich with color all burst with life, year after year, thanks to pollinators like bees. Magnificent and natural gardens would not exist without the help of our buzzing friends.

When a bee finds a lovely patch of nectar-rich flowers, it heads back to the hive to share the good news with the rest of the colony. Since bees can’t talk, they perform a waggle dance to communicate where the flowers are located. The direction the bee is facing and the length of the dance tell the workers how to get there. How can you not love little dancing bees?

Our EarthCARE committee invites all of us, wherever we may be, to see our bee neighbors in action, to thank them for their hard work, and to admire the fruit and flowers that these neighbors have helped to nurture. We are most grateful to all who have had a hand in restoring the natural habitat of our IHM Land Plan, ushering in the plentiful return of our precious bee neighbors.

The month of April invites us to celebrate Earth Day with this year’s theme of “Restore Our Earth.”

EARTHDAY.ORG notes that Restore Our Earth “focuses on natural processes, emerging green technologies, and innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems…It is up to each and every one of us to Restore Our Earth not just because we care about the natural world, but because we live on it. We all need a healthy Earth to support our jobs, livelihoods, health and survival, and happiness. A healthy planet is not an option — it is a necessity.”

EARTHDAY.ORG recognizes that planting billions of trees across the world is one of the biggest and cheapest ways to take CO2 out of the atmosphere to tackle climate crisis. Our EarthCARE committee already committed to the planting of 175 native trees as a way to celebrate our rich legacy as IHM sisters, associates, and friends. Back in November, we held an outdoor ritual of blessing the trees that were planted or soon to be planted in our Welcoming Space at the IHM Center. We called on our sisters and brothers of the leaf and branch and bud families to share their green hearts with us and to root us in God.

A simple way to honor our tree neighbors on Earth Day is to engage in some version of the Japanese practice of Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing. Shinrin Yoku involves taking in the forest atmosphere during a leisurely walk. It is a therapy developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing. Studies have shown that spending time among the trees positively creates calming neuro-psychological effects through changes in the nervous system, reducing the stress hormone cortisol and boosting the immune system. This can lead to reduction in stress, anger, anxiety, depression and sleeplessness. In fact, after just 15 minutes of forest bathing, blood pressure drops, stress levels are reduced and concentration and mental clarity improve. Vital Living, anyone?

If you’re able to practice Shinrin Yoku, try following these simple steps, recommended by Grow Wild, https://www.growwilduk.com/blog/5-simple-steps-practising-shinrin-yoku-forest-bathing:

Step 1 – leave behind your phone, camera or any other distractions, so that you can be fully present in the experience.
Step 2 – Leave behind your goals and expectations. Wander aimlessly, allowing your body to take you wherever it wants.
Step 3 – Pause from time to time to look more closely at a leaf or notice the sensation of the path beneath your feet.
Step 4 – Find a comfy spot to take a seat and listen to the sounds around you. See how the behavior of the birds and other animals changes when they become used to your presence.
Step 5 – If you go with others, make an agreement to resist talking until the end of the walk, when you can gather to share your experiences.

If you are unable to walk outside, you might sit by an open window and breathe in the air that has been purified by our tree neighbors. Spend some time in stillness and in gratitude for Earth, our Common Home, and for all creatures that inhabit this planet with us.

Please join us for our Evening of Prayer on Wednesday, April 14 at 6:30 p.m., when our EarthCARE committee will lead us in prayer for our Earth and for the environment.  You may view our Evenings of Prayer at:  https://video.ibm.com/channel/ihm-tv

purople loosestrife copy
Purple Loosestrife

Thanks to the work of many hands and hearts, our EarthCARE committee has not been able to fit into the summer and fall IHM Newsletters all that has been unfolding on our IHM land. Our partnership with the Earth community has been so rich and full that during this snowy winter we have a few more summer/fall events to report.

Sister Donna Korba and Jan Novotka met with Marywood University students to share with them the story of our IHM Land Plan. Working with our dear friend, EarthCARE committee member, and Marywood professor Sara Melick, (instructor, environmental science) these students then helped to plant trees for the Keystone 10 Million Tree Project http://www.tenmilliontrees.org/index.html

Jan Novotka also spoke to the students on the importance of planting native trees and removing species that are invasive to our area. Students put their learning into practice by removing invasive Purple Loosestrife: https://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/aquatic/plants/purple-loosestrife This plant, native to Europe/Asia and northern Africa and probably introduced to North America as a contaminant in ship ballast, is a competitive plant which can very rapidly displace native species if it’s allowed to establish itself. PA residents may be interested in signing a petition to prevent the sale of invasive species in the state: https://www.change.org/p/pennsylvania-state-house-pa-law-toprevent-sale-of-invasive-plant-species?signed=true

Marywood University students attending on-campus enrichment came to the IHM Center on Thursday mornings, delighted at being outside on sunny summer days. They engaged in scavenger hunts where they were tasked with walking the land, taking photos, and relating what they saw to what they were learning in class. As an example, students were assigned to reflect on storm water management, take photos of pervious pavements and rain gardens, and explain the importance of both. Students also read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and then engaged in small group discussions against the beautiful background of the IHM land restoration site.

We are delighted that so many have been able to join us in basking in the beauty of our land. And we are profoundly grateful to the many who share our love and respect for creation and who are working to renew the face of the Earth.

thumbnail_ENVS 420L student gabby measuring pine needles!
Student Gabby measuring pine needles

thumbnail_ENVS 216 - social distancing at the start of class!
Social distancing
as class begins

Our IHM Direction statement calls us to “use imagination, creativity, and fresh thinking to bring about God’s dream for our beautiful, yet wounded, world.”

These qualities have been on full display in the work which Sara Melick and her Marywood students engaged in during the fall of 2020. Sara, a dear friend and member of our EarthCARE committee, is a full-time professor at Marywood University. In this month’s newsletter and in our March newsletter, we hope to highlight some of the important contributions Sara and her students have made to our understanding of the plant and bird neighbors which inhabit our IHM land.

In the Ecology Lab with junior and senior Science majors, students learned the importance of using statistics in ecology, interpreting results from experiments and observational studies. Sara notes that, specifically, they looked to answer the research question: “How do pine needles vary in length within and among trees?” Students who attended on-campus enrichment surveyed the trees at the IHM Center’s Land Restoration site. Those working remotely surveyed trees in their own yard or location.

In the lab, Niches at Feeding Stations, students looked at the research question: “Do birds at a feeder exhibit different niches?” A species’ niche is described as a place in an ecosystem where the species has a favorable set of conditions in which it can survive as well as play its role in the community--a description that sounds something like Vital Living for birds!

An experiment was held at the back of the IHM Center at 4:00 p.m. on a day and at a time of perfect weather and quiet. A bird feeder was set up on a low-hanging branch outside the IHM Center. For thirty minutes, students observed the niches of different types of birds that came to feed from the bird feeder. Every one-minute interval, students took note of the species occupying the feeder and where they fed—on the feeder itself, away from the feeder, or on the ground. Data was taken at 4:00 - 4:30 p.m. at a close distance.

Students saw house sparrow, white-breasted nuthatch, tufted titmouse, chickadee, and song sparrow—as well as several ever-present squirrels who tried and usually succeeded in grabbing some food from the feeder. Students observed that most of the smaller birds like the titmouse and sparrow fed at the feeder, while the larger birds took food to the trees. Sparrows seemed to feed at and on the feeder itself, usually in groups of two. A single tufted titmouse ate only from the feeder. Chickadees fed away from the feeder. The nuthatch took seeds from the feeder and cracked them open in the trees.

Students concluded that the birds have learned to cohabitate and, in doing so, have specific areas designated to species so they can avoid one species outcompeting the other.

We’re most grateful to Sara Melick and her Marywood University students for illuminating for us the diversity of life in our IHM backyard and the ways in which the peaceful cohabitation happening outside our windows provides a model for our human family moving forward.

Mystery Solved

IMG_2017 copy

Logs, stones, piles of dirt being dragged up the hill by the back parking lot of the IHM Center
Logs cut and piled up to form a barrier 
Trip after trip with a wheelbarrow full of stones that unloaded on the hill’s edge
Perhaps the erection of a log cabin? The building of a stone wall?

For those observing the unusual back-and-forth behavior outside at the IHM Center recently, the mystery has now been solved. We’re in the process of building the structure for a pollinator garden.

Aware of the critical role of bees, butterflies, and other insects in the pollinating process, our EarthCARE committee is working on the infrastructure for what will become a pollinator garden filled with native species of flowers and plants.

A pollinator garden is planted and designed with specific nectar and pollen producing plants in a way that attracts pollinating insects known as pollinators. To attract native pollinators, an area must offer adequate sources of food, water, and shelter and provide habitats where these insects can nest, rest, and forage.

Assisted by Penn State Master Gardeners, our EarthCARE committee obtained a small grant for the soil as well as the expertise of the Master gardeners in planning, designing, building, and planting. The logs being hauled now form two natural looking barriers for the soil; barriers which will become garden beds in the spring. Stones form a circular bed. And with the coming of spring, we will plant native species of flowers and plants to attract pollinators--bees, butterflies, and other insects vital to a healthy ecosystem.

For the cold months ahead, logs have been placed on top of the garden beds, where the dried leaves will decompose and nourish the soil during the winter. We look forward with excitement to a spring planting and soon afterwards the welcoming of our bee, butterfly, and other pollinator families.

For a related reflection, you may be interested in reading “Living Like a Pollinator,” one of Sr. Chris Koellhoffer’s blog posts on her site, Mining the Now.
Go to https://chriskoellhofferihm.org/2020/07/11/living-like-a-pollinator/


In parts of the world where evergreens are abundant, many people bring trees and centerpieces and wreaths into their homes during the Advent and Christmas season. This month, our EarthCARE committee shares the story behind this custom.


Our ancestors noticed, sometimes with fear and dread, the approaching darkness descending on them during the winter months. They noticed also how all of the trees shed their leaves as winter approached, with only one tree remaining with its needles intact: the evergreen. It was believed that of all the trees, the evergreen had somehow managed to capture and hold onto precious light, so desired during the dark days of winter.

Thus began the custom of bringing the light of evergreen branches into the home--Scotch or Long Needle or Eastern White Pine; Norway or Blue Spruce; Fraser or Douglas Fir. Often, an entire tree would be carried inside a home and adorned with the additional glow of candles. Sometimes wreaths or centerpieces would be fashioned. Every branch of evergreen trees carried the gift of light, bringing hope and a gentle reminder of the coming Light of the world. Our EarthCARE committee invites all to join in offering special gratitude to the leaf and branch and bud family this Advent season.

For directions on how to create your own wreath of greens, you may want to visit: https://wholefully.com/ make-fresh-greenery-wreath/

May we be blessed as we prepare to welcome Jesus, the Word made flesh, the enduring light ever present in our beautiful yet wounded world.

On Founders Day, we celebrate our IHM Story planted in the hearts of Theresa Maxis Duchemin and Louis Florent Gillet. The seeds of that story were nurtured and protected throughout the seasons of our founders’ lives, seasons that included times of audacious hope, profound loss and anguish, and uncertainty coupled with unwavering trust. Those same seasons continue to unfold in our present time as our shared story evolves.

As we celebrate our 175th anniversary, we have committed to the planting of 175 native trees as a way to celebrate the rich legacy that is ours as IHM Sisters, Associates, and friends. On November 8, our EarthCARE committee will hold a ritual of blessing the trees that have been planted in our Welcoming Space at the IHM Center. Whether present physically or virtually, we stepped into the Greening Circle and called upon our sisters and brothers of the leaf and bud and branch family to share their green heart with us and root us in God.

We blessed and welcomed our new neighbors from the following families:
• Silky Dogwood, Witch Hazel, Spicebush, Flowering Dogwood
• Sweet Bay Magnolia, Black Chokeberry, Winterberry, Elderberry
• Blueberry, Black Cherry, Paw Paw, Persimmons
• Black Gum, Gray Dogwood, Arrowwood, Red Chokeberry
• Black Haw, Buttonbush, Eastern Redbud, Red-Osier Dogwood
• Serviceberry, and Swamp White Oak

IHM Land Reclamation Project

In the coming days, our EarthCARE committee invites all to spend time in prayer and relationship with these new neighbors in the Welcoming Space as well as with their tree sisters and brothers in our own neighborhoods.

During the lockdown and stay at-home orders brought about by the advent of COVID-19, many of us have come to appreciate in new and grateful ways the healing power of the natural world. Nature has offered us an arena of safety and protection, wonder and beauty, all invitations for healing and renewal.

On October 4, we mark the close of the Season of Creation and also celebrate the feast day of one of the world’s most beloved saints, Francis of Assisi, who made it his mission to re-teach all things their loveliness. In this excerpt from “St. Francis and the Sow,” Galway Kinnell describes what happens when someone affirms our own beauty and worth:

“The bud stands for all things, even for those things that don’t flower, for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing; though sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness, to put a hand on its brow of the flower and retell it in words and in touch it is lovely until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing; as Saint Francis put his hand on the creased forehead of the sow…”

So this month, our EarthCARE committee asked a number of sisters and associates who have spent some time visiting or working in the Welcoming Space of our IHM Land Plan to reflect on how, during this time of the pandemic, nature has helped to re-teach them their own loveliness, how nature has in some way been healing and renewing for them.

We thank them for sharing their reflections with us:

“Being on the land is so grounding, so refreshing for my soul! Everywhere I look is a celebration of life’s diversity. I like to just stop, be still, and listen.
In those moments I can sense the aliveness of Sacred Presence permeating everywhere.”

“Many afternoons I leave my office (in the Center) with tense shoulders and bleary eyes, having worked intensely on a project requiring concentration and persistent endurance. Going to my car I glance over at the Land Project which immediately brings me to another world of peace and calm. The varying shades of greens, a yellow bunch of buttercups, maybe a small white butterfly passing by the butterfly bench release the tension and I am almost aware of my body sighing into a ‘Thank you, God.’”

“Recently, I have spent some time in the hermitage. There was a special awakening or freedom to have that first cup of coffee outside, listening to the sounds of nature, especially the birds. The birds have the freedom to fly about and discover food, water, mates, nesting places, etc. As I watched the birds, especially the cardinals, I felt a sense of freedom and independence. I had the opportunity to let God open my heart to feel God’s love, freedom and peace. For these gifts I am most grateful.”

“To me the Welcoming Space is a place of beauty, peace and renewal. I am reminded of how well God cares for us and how wonderfully He provides for our every need. The delicate ecosystem is a powerful reminder of how reliant we are on each other and on God’s blessings. I am fascinated with
the ever-changing landscape, how some plants die, new ones bloom, etc. It’s a movie I never tire of. This is a place where people care what happens to our earth, inspiring me to care more, too.”

Our EarthCARE committee invites all to enter into the healing beauty of the IHM Welcoming Space or the healing beauty of Nature wherever we may find ourselves. May we discover in these encounters a deeper knowing of the sacredness of all creation and of our place and worth in the universe.

Does Earth have a voice?

In previous Updates, our EarthCARE committee has shared the voice of our Earth expressed in birdsong, in the comments of neighbors responding to the solace and beauty of our land, in our own deep listening to the rhythms of our environment leading to greater wholeness and well-being.

Now our EarthCARE committee invites us to collectively listen to the cries of Earth through observing the Season of Creation. Every year from September 1 to October 4, the Christian family unites for a worldwide celebration of prayer and action to protect Earth, our Common Home. This year the theme for the Season of Creation is “Jubilee for the Earth.” Jubilee, celebrated every fifty years, involves release from indebtedness, a time when
injustices of the past fifty years are to be restored. Jubilee calls us to be a prophetic voice on climate injustice, a voice that calls for us to restore our Earth.

The Season of Creation is a time to reconcile ourselves with creation. A time to acknowledge that tipping points are being reached, threatening the lives of the most vulnerable and putting the lives of future generations in jeopardy. A time when faith communities are called to raise a united voice ahead of the 26th annual United Nations Conference to address the climate crisis. This conference (COP26) is particularly significant as parties are due to announce how they will implement the Paris Climate Agreement (and whether they will fall short). A time when faith communities are called to support and challenge their countries’ leadership to implement visionary and significant goals for the care of our Earth.

We know that the Holy One speaks to us from everywhere. Everywhere, we hear the groaning of creation. Everywhere, we grow in awareness of Earth’s pain and loss, which is our pain and loss also. In this time of Jubilee, may we listen, and listen intently. May we participate in the Season of Creation and embrace this deep listening through:

• Prayer: including praise for God’s provision, repentance for our complicity in the suffering of Earth and our neighbors, and intercession for those most vulnerable to climate chaos;
• Practice: auditing our own mistreatment of Earth and committing to new practices individually and collectively;
• Advocacy: encouraging states to insure that climate justice and steps to a green economy are part of COVID-19 economic recovery plans;
• Action: participating in civil action to put pressure on governments to produce ambitious national targets for COP26.

As we yearn for the moral imagination that accompanies Jubilee, may we work in partnership with the Spirit of God to renew the face of creation, day by day.


Meet the Neighbors!

baby robbins

cardinal cradinal

Blue Jay2

In our July EarthCARE update, we focused on the human visitors who have been appreciating and contributing to our IHM land. This month we choose to highlight some of our winged (and other) friends and neighbors, accompanied by the exquisite photography of Carol Elliot, a visitor from Dunmore.

We’re reminded that one of the hoped for outcomes of our original IHM land renewal plan was to restore the natural habitat that would usher in the return of bees, butterflies, and birds. Our hopes have been realized and we’re delighted that our winged neighbors have responded so extravagantly to our invitation.

Reflections and observations from EarthCARE members reveal the diversity of feathered visitors—including the ubiquitous chickadees—who are enjoying the hospitality of the Welcoming Space these days:

“Walking this morning, I saw again the red-tailed hawk patiently looking over the menu of the frenzied birds watching him.”

“Anyone who is walking these days is certainly aware of the bees and so many birds. In addition to the hawks, I’ve seen many red-winged blackbirds, wrens, sparrows, robins, and, for me, the return of the eastern blue bird is a joy! The recent plantings are also a tremendous addition to sustaining the birds through the winter.”

Time given over to visiting our Welcoming Space also underscores our desire to promote a culture of contemplative consciousness:

“On my walk today, I couldn’t help but ponder not only the birds and wildlife but also the ever-changing vegetation and flowers. It’s so amazing how the landscape changes in response to what the animals and birds need. When one species of flower or berry dies, another starts to bloom. I was reminded of how God provides for our every need and of His constant presence and love.”

In “Another Voice” in Earth Gospel, Scott Hoezee might very well have been walking our IHM land when he noted, “Perhaps in God’s ears, all of this world’s sounds are really songs of praise—and what a chorus it is! Conservative estimates say that in North America alone there are as many as six billion land birds. So let us be conservative and say that on any given day in the spring…each of these birds sings its song about ten thousand times. That would be, in North America alone, sixty trillion songs in just one day.”

Our EarthCARE committee invites all to come and enjoy an amazing everyday occurrence: a choir of winged neighbors offering songs of praise and gladness right here in our Welcoming Space.

eastern Blue           Easter Blue in nest  hawk head

With summer sun and warmth comes an abundance of all things green and growing on our land. Jan Novotka and Sisters Kate Clancy and Donna Korba have been spending most weekday afternoons in this summer season planting trees, weeding, watering, cleaning up the rain gardens, and digging up invasive species. In their work, they’ve also encountered new neighbors of both the human and animal species.


Originally, the EarthCARE committee had planned to schedule a “Gathering of Neighbors” for the early evening of June 17. The idea was to design a “Come and See” invitation and place it in the mailboxes of our neighbors in the surrounding area, inviting them to spend some time with us when we could share with them the many aspects of our dream for our IHM land.

When that plan seemed stalled by the arrival of COVID-19, we were surprised to notice that, without any formal written invitation, many of our neighbors were discovering us, perhaps hearing the voice of the land calling in its own mysterious way. Kate and Donna began to notice “regulars,” people who walked our land at the same time every day. Over time, the regulars were joined by new faces, all respectful and practicing social distancing, and many surprised by what they discovered in our back yard.

Some of the visitors include the following:

Michelle and Janet, two retired women who walk each day before noon. Michelle learned of a mutual acquaintance, Tom McLane, whose firm designed our land restoration. From that initial connection, the two women began to share their own plant wisdom, offered an organic recipe for weed killer, brought white lilac saplings for us to plant, and befriended Sister Leonnette, helping her with the flowers at the grotto.

Abby, a teacher of environmental science at Scranton High School. Abby arrives every morning with her two children, Andrew (5) and Allie (2 1/2), and their dog, Roxy. Abby pulls a wagon led by Roxy, and travels from the Hill section of Scranton to our land each morning. Once here, the children rest under a tree, eat their snacks, read their books, and receive a lesson from Abby at the pond area, where she teaches about tadpoles, birds and insects. Andrew collects stones in the shape of hearts and has given one of his finds to both Sisters Donna and Margaret Gannon. Sister Joyce Marks is another newfound friend to the children.

Carol Elliot, who recently moved to Dunmore. Carol is an avid birder and photographer who captures close-up photographs of birds—birds leaving nesting boxes, baby birds, and more. Carol has offered to help with weeding or any other tasks and has also offered to share some of her exquisite photographs with us.

Conversations between sisters and visitors to the land have included requests for prayers, a sharing of visitors’ reasons for walking the land, and words of gratitude for our graciousness in offering this sacred space to the wider community. In a very real sense, our IHM land is revealing new dimensions to our practice of hospitality, stretching a spirit of welcome and spaciousness of heart beyond the boundaries of our IHM property.

Our response to COVID-19 has led us to shelter in place, to stay at home, to minimize physical contact with others and to practice safe social distancing. At the same time that we’ve been invited into a necessary hibernation of sorts, in the Northern hemisphere Earth is moving towards
the full flourishing and flowering of springtime, reminding us that the cycles of rest and renewal unfold in our lives.

As this season leads to the greening of the natural world, may it also lead to the greening of our understanding and practice of environmental wellness, one of the eight dimensions of our IHM Vital Living Plan. Our EarthCARE committee invites us to reflect on and integrate into our hearts the learnings of this dimension for our own lives and the life of our planet.

The Environmental Dimension of Wellness calls us to: be respectful of all surroundings; understand the dynamic relationships between the environment and people; be aware of our personal environment within and our outward behavior; bring harmony and wholeness into all we’re about.

In growing in environmental well-being, we begin with an awareness of our own interior environment where, through prayer and contemplative living, we create a spaciousness of heart, a spirit that welcomes and nurtures all. We work to deepen our consciousness of the ways our individual actions and attitudes impact the world around us and the world beyond us. We learn to practice reverence and care for Earth, our Common Home, individually and collectively assuming responsibility for the care of our environment. The restoration of our IHM land, the naming of our IHM Center as a Welcoming Space, and the selection of ecological integrity as one of our congregation’s five critical issues by our Office of Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation speak to our collective seriousness when it comes to environmental wellness.

EarthCARE committee member, Sister Jean Coughlin, summarized our call in her article “Environmental Wellness” in the Spring 2019 issue of Journey. She wrote, “All that we do as individuals, our thoughts, actions and behaviors have an impact on the environment, on our wellbeing and the well-being of Earth and all that it contains. Now is the time to take this responsibility to heart for the sake of present and future generations."

Honoring Mother Earth

This year we celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 10. The invitation honor those who are partners in the creation of life is especially significant during these days of the COVID-19 pandemic which continues to claim precious lives.

Mother’s Day was the idea of Anna Jarvis. At the memorial service for her mother, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, who died in 1905, Anna gave white carnations to all the mourners who gathered to celebrate her mother’s life. She made it her mission from then on to make Mother’s Day a holiday to honor her own mother and mothers everywhere. In 1914, President Wilson issued a proclamation establishing Mother’s Day on the second Sunday
in May.

Since Mother’s Day is a celebration of the home and all that mothering includes, it seems appropriate to include Mother Earth in our remembrances. We name the Earth as a living being, our sacred and Common Home, the provider of all that we have on this planet. If Mother Earth could speak to us today, what might she say?

Perhaps she would speak through the words of Marilou Awiakta’s poem, “When Earth Becomes an ‘It’”:


When the people call Earth
they take with love
and with love give back
so that all may live.

When the people call Earth “It,”
they use her, consume her strength.
Then the people die.

Already the sun is hot out of season.
Our Mother’s breast is going dry.

She is taking all green
into her heart
and will not turn back
until we call her by her name.

May we honor the name of Mother Earth by the ways we take with love and with love give back so that all may live.

This year holds two significant anniversaries that our EarthCARE committee wishes to highlight.


Five years ago in May 2015, Pope Francis published his encyclical, Laudato Si, translated in English as Praise Be to You. The title echoes the opening words of the Canticle proclaimed by the Pope’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis calls all of us, individually and collectively, into a new dialogue about caring for Earth, which he names as our “Common Home.” He urges us into critical reflection and conversation about how our actions and intentions are shaping the future of our fragile planet, and he remains one of the most vocal and tireless advocates on behalf of our Earth.

In 2015, our IHM Congregation published a book of reflections, Praise Be to You. It invites all of us to commit to cherish the terrible, fragile beauty that is Earth, a home that holds everything we love and everything we know.

Fifty years ago on April 22, 1970, twenty million Americans swelled streets, campuses, and cities to protest environmental ignorance and call for a new way forward for our planet. That first Earth Day is credited with launching the modern environmental movement. Earth Day led to the passage of landmark environmental laws in the United States, including the Clean Air, Clear Water and Endangered Species Acts. Globally, the United Nations chose Earth Day in 2016 as the day to sign the Paris Climate Agreement.

The theme of Earth Day in 2020 is Climate Action, selected as the most pressing issue for the 50th anniversary year. Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of the human, plant and animal communities, and to all of creation. Earth Day urges us to summon the innovation and courage needed to meet our current climate crisis. Earth Day calls us to embody our IHM Direction Statement in using “imagination, creativity, and fresh thinking... in bringing about God’s dream for our beautiful, yet wounded, world.”

As we enter into the season of Lent, we’re invited to mine its root meaning: the Old English “lencten,” for springtime, and the German “langitinaz,”

Butterfly in garden


for long days. Here in the Northern hemisphere, we begin to sense the lengthening of days that awakens bulbs breaking through the soil under our feet, the awakening of new life above and around us in robin song and budding trees. This transformation of the natural world is our visible reminder of the Lenten journey, the deep, inner soul work of the Paschal Mystery, into which we’re once again invited.

Our EarthCARE committee links this holy season and this season of spring in particular with the Vital Living Dimension of Wellness that is the Environmental: being respectful of all surroundings, understanding the dynamic relationship between the environment and all people, being aware of our personal environment, and bringing harmony and wholeness wherever we are.

As a simple practice for living the Environmental dimension more deeply, Sisters at the IHM Center have been faithfully saving yogurt containers for a Lenten Seed Project. These containers, at the bottom of which holes have been poked open, stand ready to nurture new life. In late March, Sisters will be invited to the OLPH Conference Room, where we will have a simple prayer and fill the containers with soil, plant native seeds, and then care for the growing seeds during the Lenten season and beyond. Hopefully in late May, these seeds will have risen to become seedlings sturdy enough to be planted in our Friendship Garden during a ritual to take place in the IHM Land Plan.

Sister Lisa Perkowski and her team will offer this same sacred activity to the students of Nativity-Miguel  School during their week of service in Scranton. Lisa’s team will educate and animate the students of Nativity-Miguel to plant and care for their seeds until they join with the IHM Sisters in late May to plant their seedlings in the Friendship Garden. Sisters and students will celebrate the Easter season and the planting season in the context of a ritual on that day.

As our EarthCARE committee continues to discern next steps in our IHM Land Plan, we’re linking our discernment to the 175th anniversary of the founding of our IHM Congregation. As we know, the 175th anniversary observance will take place in ways that are both local (Scranton, PA) and at a distance (Monroe, MI).

Sisters Kate Clancy and Donna Korba planting trees at the IHM Center

Locally, we’re teaming up with the Keystone Ten Million Trees Project, a long-term commitment to mitigate Climate Change by planting and tending to ten million trees in Pennsylvania between 2020-2025. An Earth-CARE committee member suggested that in observing our 175th anniversary, we commit to planting and tending to 175 native trees or shrubs.

Though we’re not able to plant 175 trees on our land at the IHM Center, we are able to plant trees that will be beneficial here and at our property at Lake Ariel. We will also invite IHM Associates, sponsored ministries, friends, families, and neighbors to commit to planting and tending to the remainder of the symbolic 175 shrubs or trees. We urge everyone to invite people you know to consider planting and tending a tree or two on their property. Information and specific details will be forthcoming in the near future.

On February 9, Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light (PAIPL), a partner in the Keystone Ten Million Trees Partnership, will utilize the IHM Welcoming Space as one of three sites for their annual conference. The conference will address Climate Change and offer breakout sessions on various local Climate Change issues. All are welcome but will need to register to attend the program: PAIPL.org

At the January meeting of the EarthCARE committee, members viewed a brief but powerful YouTube video on our need to protect and restore nature and to understand the role of trees in reversing Climate Change. You may view the video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Q0xUXo2zEY&vl=en-US

Not only do our neighbors, the trees, assist us in working to reverse the effects of Climate Change, but they also, without words, teach us about learning to live together on this Earth. In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben shares how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn others of impending danger. May we learn from their witness and cherish their continued presence among us in this 175th Anniversary year and always.

Our EarthCARE committee continues to explore our partnership with the land and all creatures that inhabit it. Each month we hope to provide an update in our IHM Newsletter that highlights the ongoing work of caring for our common home.

MU students 2 copy
Marywood students tilling the earth in our garden.

MU students tilling soil copy

In the November newsletter, we shared research provided by Melissa Cheesman on native species of plants and flowers that might be cultivated on our land and later used for floral arrangements to beautify our chapel for special occasions. Native plants might also be purchased for that purpose. Melissa is now working on creating a binder that can be used as a reference tool for those wishing to engage in this environmentally friendly practice.

As we continue to re-imagine our partnership with the land, we chose this month to highlight an ongoing partnership between Marywood University and the IHM Center. During the fall semester, students from Marywood’s environmental science department have been led by Sara Melick, adjunct professor at Marywood, to assist with projects at the IHM Center as they also learn how to conduct research.

The students learned to take soil samples which were sent to Penn State for soil fertility testing. They viewed and evaluated the results and assisted with soil amendments in our Friendship Garden. They assisted with tree and shrub planting and, as part of their “sampling a plant community” lab, visited the IHM Center and performed quadrant sampling. Students documented plant species in the Land Restoration area and were able to document a wide array of plant species, including sneezeweed, purple stem aster, cattails, and white heath aster.

Students returned to the IHM Center for their birding lab, observing and documenting the bird community and learning about biodiversity and the variety of life on earth. Using both visual and auditory cues, students practiced measuring species diversity in the community and documented species that included the pileated woodpecker, American crow, American robin, and many species of sparrows.

We are grateful for this partnership with Marywood students whose research is enabling us to get to know and care for our native bird and plant neighbors more effectively.

We recently named the environment as one of our IHM Critical Issues. As we continue to explore ways to deepen and grow our relationship with all of creation, our EarthCARE committee has been engaging in fresh thinking to re-imagine our communion with the land and all the creatures who inhabit it. We’ve already seen how the planting of flowers, shrubs, and greenery native to our region has resulted in the welcoming of birds, frogs, and other species that are making a home on our IHM Center land. We now hope to move this invitation a step further by welcoming our native plant and flowering  neighbors to come inside our home, when possible.

Native flowers bouquet copy

At a recent EarthCARE meeting, a member shared research on native species of plants and flowers that might be cultivated on our land and then cut for floral arrangements to beautify Our Lady of Lourdes chapel for special occasions, liturgies, and ceremonies. Some native plants might also be purchased for this purpose and later transplanted outdoors as part of our IHM Land Restoration. We are at work creating a binder to be used as a reference for those who wish to engage in this practice. The binder will illustrate some of the native plants and flowers available and provide ideas for arrangements using this greenery. An example, (see photo) shows the use of the familiar Queen Anne’s Lace in an arrangement which includes this lovely wildflower and other flowers native to our area.

May we continue to prayerfully re-imagine our partnership with our land in ways that bring about God’s dream of abundant life for all people and for our Common Home

Nesting Boxes and Birding 101

In a continued effort to create habitat for native species of birds, butterflies and other creatures, the IHM EarthCARE Committee has initiated the erection of eight nesting boxes on the land restoration project. Four of the boxes are constructed specifically for Eastern Bluebirds and the other four for Black Capped Chickadees. Both species are among those native to the area and somewhat scarce in recent years. Various bird baths were placed around the property as well.

Bird Houses

On May 2, 2019, professional birder David Trently will present on the topic of the “Joy of Birding” at the IHM Center. The program will be available via video stream at www.ustream.tv/channel/ihm-tv