My Perspective: Spirit and nature: Ecospirituality at the Christine Center

Photos courtesy of the Christine Center

By Johanna Seubert, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration and Rosalie Hooper Thomas, affiliate, Christine Center board chair

As we celebrate 175 years of prayer, witness and service, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration give gratitude for spaces that invite and nurture relationships with all in our Earth Community. These gifts include the Christine Center, a spirituality center located in Willard, Wisconsin, missioned to providing “a thriving and inclusive haven for seekers from many paths, transcending boundaries of nationality, culture and creed.”

This My Perspective story is a collaboration of Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Johanna Seubert and Rosalie Hopper Thomas, FSPA affiliate and Christine Center board chair, that features Sister Johanna and her ministry of spiritual guidance, meditation and Diamond  Approach teacher — all that “embodies the commitment to ‘We Are One.’”

With our world increasingly disconnected from its roots, the quest for a harmonious balance between spiritual fulfillment and ecological responsibility is more urgent than ever. Ecospirituality acknowledges our interdependence with the earth and offers a commitment to live in a manner that honors this relationship. It is a spiritual perspective encouraging a way of life that respects and protects the natural world, recognizing the intrinsic link between our spiritual well-being and the health of our planet.

The Christine Center emerged through the vision “We Are One,” which our foundress, Wheaton Illinois Franciscan Virginia Mary Barta, lived long before the campus was built. Founded on principles of inclusivity, peace and reverence for life, the center offers a sanctuary for those seeking to nurture their spiritual journey within the embrace of Mother Earth. The ethos of the Christine Center is deeply rooted in an understanding that true spiritual enlightenment encompasses a harmonious relationship with the environment.

Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Johanna Seubert, who lives and ministers at the Christine Center, has supported this vision for 38 years. Originally coming to work with Sister Virginia Mary, she has devoted her life to others and embodies the essence of our commitment to “We are One.” Sister Johanna’s life’s work, deeply intertwined with the center’s mission, reflects a profound dedication to building relationships, fostering community, offering spiritual guidance and cultivating offerings that deepen one’s connection to God through nature. For Sister Johanna, the Christine Center is a living example of how spirituality and ecology can merge to guide us toward our true nature and a more sustainable and interconnected existence.

Left: the Christine Center's main building; Middle: Sister Johanna Seubert; Right: the Christine Center's chapel

Through the years, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration’s association with the Christine Center has been one of encouragement, support and collaboration. This relationship is built on a shared vision of stewardship for the earth and for people, recognizing the  interdependence and interconnection of all living things. The center — through prayer, meditation, programs and other initiatives — brings this vision to life in the offering of spaces where individuals can explore their spiritual path while actively participating in conservation and sustainability.

Spanning 150 acres of pristine forest, the Christine Center is more than a retreat: It is a vibrant ecosystem where spirituality and ecology are interwoven into the fabric of daily life. From meditative walks in the woods to contemplative nature healing and sustainable living practices, guests are encouraged to engage in practices that foster a sense of unity with nature. These activities are designed to soothe the soul, instill a sense of responsibility toward the environment and cultivate a lived experience of “We Are One.”

One of the center’s foundational beliefs is that every spiritual journey deepens in connection to the earth. This belief is manifested through a commitment to sustainable practices, such as using renewable energy sources like solar and geothermal, minimizing waste and promoting biodiversity on their grounds. By embodying these principles, the Christine Center offers a tangible example of how spiritual communities can lead the way in ecological conservation and sustainable living.

Sister Johanna’s 38-year journey at the Christine Center mirrors the evolution of ecospirituality from a slight interest to a vital movement. A vibrant community that values deep connections with and within nature, spiritual exploration and sustainable living has emerged. Over the years, this has included a resident community of Wheaton Franciscans, FSPA, School Sisters of Notre Dame, resident team members, volunteers and support staff — all who have enriched countless lives and set a precedent for what spiritual centers can achieve in terms of ecological responsibility.

The Christine Center stands as a testament to the transformative power of ecospirituality. It offers a path forward in a world grappling with environmental degradation and spiritual disconnection. It reminds us that by rekindling our bond with the earth, we can find solace, inspiration and guidance for living in harmony with nature and each other. In this sacred space, the whisper of the wind, the rhythm of the rain and the silence of the snow become conduits of divine wisdom, guiding us towards a deeper understanding of our place in the web of life.

The 175th anniversary of the FSPA is a moment to honor the past and look forward to the future. It is a future that the Christine Center, along with the FSPA community, is helping to shape — one where ecospirituality is not just an ideal but a practical pathway to healing our world and ourselves. The shared commitment to this cause is a reminder of the power of faith and action to create meaningful change.

As we move forward, the legacy of the Christine Center and the FSPA’s 175 years of service inspire us to deepen our connection to all of life. In this sacred endeavor, we find pathways to spiritual enlightenment and the design for a world where all life is cherished and sustained.


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