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 (, 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,

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:

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

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: 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:

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


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: 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:

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:

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