Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA)

Modern Lives. Sacred Traditions.


Solar greenhouse addition will allow for year-round food production

by Lucy Slinger, FSPA

It’s time for courage, it’s time for creativity and it’s time for boldness to tackle climate change.” 

                     - California Governor Jerry Brown

What is it like to turn on the tap and no water comes out? People in California and San Paulo, Brazil, experience this today. This is just one indicator that climate change is our reality. 

What is our response as a community of vowed Franciscan women, centered in Eucharist, committed to be loving presence through prayer, witness and service? 

We stand in solidarity with those on the margins. We use our gifts to give witness to societal changes all inclusive. It is our time to model alternatives of life-giving focus instead of strictly economic motives. We have a tradition of risking boldy for ecological sustainability as exhibited by facility operations at Viterbo University’s Fine Arts Center and FSPA-sponsored spirituality centers, and also the use of combined heat and power to generate electricity for St. Rose Convent. Following bold tradition, this summer we are constructing a passive solar greenhouse and solar panel array for the Quonset building on our St. Joseph Ridge land. 

Illustration of passive solar greenhouse to be built on FSPA landThis addition to the FSPA organic garden ministry will provide a model for year-round food production and storage with a root cellar, rain catchment system and composting toilet facility. It is to be constructed with earth-friendly materials including compressed earth bricks and whole-tree supports. The whole-tree supports add aesthetic beauty and a spirituality base to complement the growing plants that will be raised as local food sources for St. Rose Convent, Villa St. Joseph and others in need in the La Crosse area. The proposed solar panel arrays will tie into the grid, not only producing power for lights, a water pump and fans in the greenhouse but also reducing Villa power usage. Sisters, volunteers and retreat participants will have access to the space as a warm haven from the frosty Wisconsin winters in which to contemplate creation.

This project is our latest vision of nurturing this land as a source of sustainable and spiritual education. It is our response to the call put out by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for all congregations to act to mitigate climate change. It’s a lived response to Pope Francis who says, “Climate change affects everyone, but especially the poor and most vulnerable people. Impelled by our Catholic faith, we call on you to drastically cut carbon emissions to keep the global temperature rise below the dangerous threshold of 1.5°C, and to aid the world’s poorest in coping with climate change impacts.” 

So we choose to act on behalf of solidarity with all—including the voiceless. As we prepare for the release of Pope Francis’ Ecology Encyclical, we pray it will lead the world to greater actions of mitigating climate change.


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