One year ago, the Dominican Sisters of Hope (in committed collaboration with four other Dominican communities, also known as OPSCC) officially committed to work on climate changeimpacts. The initiative, which took the form of a corporate stance, was as important as it was heady: the group acknowledged the negative impacts of climate change and pledged to “work together to identify regional and national actions to … work for solutions to climate change.”
“The time has come for us to speak as a corporate body on behalf of God’s Creation,” the OPSCC Justice Committee wrote. “May our hearts be open and inspired by the one who breathes life into all of Creation to be courageous co-creators in this, our moment.”
In the year since officially taking the corporate stance, Dominican Sisters across the United States have taken clear steps to better care for Earth, our common home. Below, we’ve highlighted seven ways we work for Earth, and how you can join the effort.
1. Attend Events that Support Earth
Last weekend, Dominican Sisters of Hope Bette Ann Jaster and Nancy Erts attended Green Ossining Day to “promote that all Earth is a garden.” They didn’t just attend the event, they dressed for it complete with anti-fracking signs and conversation-starters to educate people along the way. In addition to sharing how they promote planting for the pollinators, bees, and butterflies, they offered easy ideas for marveling at nature.
Reflecting on a labyrinth walk surrounded by herbs and flowers, hiking a nature trail, or sitting on a bench and breathing were all encouraged.
“Too long treated as an object, used and abused, we know Earth as a sacred subject, worth relating with as a mentor, teacher and healer,” Sister Bette Ann says. The enthusiasm of the “Hope-full Sisters of all Earth’s Gardens” couldn’t be missed; neither could the gravity of their message.
2. Participate in Rallies
In January 2016, Sister Bette Ann Jaster joined Westchester residents and activists to draw attention to the dangers of a proposed gas pipeline project which is expected to connect to the AIM (Algonquin Incremental Market) Pipeline in Westchester County.
Concerns about the safety of the pipeline to both the planet and its inhabitants include compressors and pigging stations every ten to thirty miles, spewing methane gas, potential explosions (these have happened in both West Virginia and Texas within the past two years), proximity to an elementary school, and the process of digging up the forty-two-inch diameter pipeline.
Various Dominican Sisters of Hope have attended other rallies to stand in solidarity of climate justice and urge a greater compassion for Earth.
3. Educate Yourself and Others
As Dominican Sister of Hope Pat Flynn points out, her pursuit to learn more about climate change expanded her knowledge of other social justice issues.
“It’s more than climate change; it’s the impacts,” Sister Pat says.
“Climate change underlies poverty, and then poverty certainly drives human trafficking. People are displaced from homes, food distribution is curtailed, labor source disappears, they begin to find other ways of refuge; it’s a terrible situation and it’s not getting any better.”
The good news? If climate change is related to human trafficking and other world issues, eradicating it will only multiply the benefits for all of us.
(via Interfaith Power and Light: Sign up to order a Racing Extinction Movie Screening here)
4. Pray for the Planet
At noon (local time) today, the Dominican Sisters of Hope will join our voices for a National Climate Prayer. Opening the hearts and minds of all people to protect creation for our children and grandchildren is simple as saying the prayer alone or with a group. Join us from wherever you are – your home, your place of worship, your office, your school, or outside under the sun.
Looking for a longer prayer experience? Dominican Sister of Hope Nancy Erts offers day, weekend, and weeklong programs at Mariandale Retreat and Conference Center that center prayer around Earth, our common home.
Learn more about the National Climate Prayer here.
5. Participate in Faith Climate Action Week
You might know about Earth Day, but are you aware of Faith Climate Action Week? The weeklong celebration (previously known as the Preach-In) is Interfaith Power & Light’s campaign for climate healing and action and extends through this Sunday, April 24th. Now in its seventh year, the initiative has reached close to two million people with more than 5,000 climate and Earth stewardship sermons and talks nationwide, the Dominican Sisters of Hope included.
6. Get Buzzing for Bees
In 2015, the sisters and staff at Mariandale welcomed two hives of bees onto campus. The effort to obtain the bees wasn’t easy, but it was certainly worthwhile. For years beforehand, the sisters spoke at public hearings, wrote and submitted their support of the bees to the trustees, hosted the Croton Bee Keepers and the Hudson Valley Natural Bee Keepers meetings at the Center on the North end of the Village of Ossining, and even screened a Bee film for the mayor and trustees to educate those around them about the importance of restoring natural habitats.
In 2014, they along with residents, gardeners, friends, neighbors, and beekeepers, helped to create a new law that allows bees and beekeeping in the Village of Ossining.
One year later, we’re proud to say that that our bees are as happy and healthy as ever. Just yesterday, we had a swarm of thousands of bees in a tree. Our resident beekeepers (including Sister Bette Ann Jaster!) quickly prepared a new hive and the bees eventually left the tree and went to the new hive, leaving everyone safe and sound.
7. Include Others
While Dominican Sisters in the Tri-State area actively care for Earth, so do sisters in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island, just to name a few. Twenty Years ago, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Betty Daugherty helped found Prairiewoods, a Franciscan Spirituality Center in Hiawatha, Iowa, that focuses on eco-spirituality and the universe story. In the same year, Hope Sister Bette Ann Jaster helped found Earthlinks, a nonprofit in Denver, Colorado, that teaches people who are homeless and low-income skills to create Earth-friendly products that sustain people and the planet.
Both organizations are still in existence today; by carrying on the sisters’ legacy, both affect people who the sisters will never meet.
In short, protecting and preserving Earth is all about coming together. As Sister Bette Ann says, taking steps toward caring for Earth’s sake is rooted in the willingness to start now.
“Find companions and ask, ‘What can we do?'” Sister Bette Ann advises. “Then do it!”