IHM EarthCARE

 

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Environmental Justice Newsletters

 

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.

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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’”:

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When the people call Earth
  “Mother,”
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.

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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

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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).

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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.

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Marywood students tilling the earth in our garden.

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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.

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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