Sr. Madeleine demonstrating how to compost

As 2022 draws to a close, the Dominican Sisters of Hope have begun Year Two of commitment to the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. At fall Community Chapter meetings, sisters and associates shared stories about their spiritual connection to nature. For many, the question evoked memories of a childhood spent gardening, farming, or playing outdoors. Others expressed particular appreciation for oceans, rivers, lakes, forests, and starry night skies.

For some, the social isolation of the pandemic intensified that connection. “I had no one to talk to or be with. I found myself going for long walks, hugging the bushes and talking to the trees,” one said. “They were my community.”

“I spent hours watching a trio of young kittens emerge into foxes the first year of the pandemic,” said another. “I experienced real grief when I thought [they] had been overtaken by other animals during the night.”

After considering where the Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor have been most visible over the past year, including drought, flooding, plastic pollution, and the immigration crisis, there was lively discussion about opportunities for individual and corporate action. The congregation is beginning the new year with a focus on the Adoption of Sustainable Lifestyles, with sisters making personal pledges to conserve energy, eat less meat, or reduce single-use plastic.

Care of Earth has long been a congregational priority, and over the years many sisters have adopted sustainable practices. For example, Sr. Madeleine Tacy has a vegetable garden and compost pile in the back yard of her home in South Dartmouth, MA. And Sr. Donna Brunell, a quilter, re-purposes her single-use plastic containers for crafts. But in light of the urgency of the crisis, pledges were made to step up and do more.  To date, 53 sisters and associates have committed to one new action (or two, or three).

In South Carolina, Associate Sue Smith already dries laundry on a rack and has now made a commitment to stop buying single-use plastic.  Fellow Associate Judith Pond is also eliminating plastic, while Sisters Louise Levesque, Connie Kelly, Dorothy Ann Gensur, and Catherine Walsh have started cooking vegetarian meals one or two nights each week. Sisters Cecilia Murray and Lorelle Elcock are bringing cloth produce bags to the grocery store, and associate Martha LaValee is using a shampoo bar to avoid plastic bottles. Several sisters made pledges to conserve energy by lowering thermostats, turning off lights, and carpooling where possible.

Many sisters committed to educating themselves about sustainability and to sharing resources for further learning.

In the new year, ALL are invited to join the sisters in “being hope” by making a personal pledge to a more sustainable lifestyle. You can make your commitment by filling out this online form. If you’d like to make your commitment public, you can also share it in the comments section below. (Communication is a form of action!) Everyone who fills out a commitment form by January 31 will be eligible to enter a drawing for an eco-friendly gift.