We commit ourselves to protect and care for Mother Earth

By Betty Daugherty, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration

Photo by Amy Starr

A sloping coulee offering magnificent sunsets; tall grasses and trails, a home for deer and turkey; prairie flowers for bees and butterflies and nourishment for the human soul. These are the gifts that have been passed on to us by all Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration who went before us.

Their stories, the dreams they pursued, the lives they lived and the decisions they made formed a strong, flowing stream, a living legacy for us. We honor that legacy and remember them as we make decisions today.

When sisters purchased the FSPA farmland at St. Joseph Ridge in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 1895, and land in Hiawatha, Iowa, in 1962, they did so for economic reasons and to meet the needs of community members. Through those decisions they also protected these lands from development. 

Most of us have had experiences of a deep spiritual connection to the natural world. Our souls have been nourished by the beauty we’ve found in nature and our bodies fed by its abundance. We know too that, as humans, we are one with all of creation, not separate or above.  

As we met last summer to proclaim A Revolution of Goodness we discovered within ourselves, along with the pain and grief we felt for the many needs of the world, a strong desire to commit to protect and care for Mother Earth. 

This desire to protect our land was later translated into practical terms during the FSPA Chapter of Affairs in which future directions were determined. Two proposals involving land in FSPA care were voted on and approved by an overwhelming majority of sisters. One proposal places the 70 acres of land at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center in Hiawatha in a conservation easement so that the land will never be developed.

The second proposal addresses the future use of the land at Villa St. Joseph, 200 acres in the coulee region outside of La Crosse. This farmland can now be used for educational projects concerning restorative agriculture, soil rehabilitation and sustainable woodland practices. The hundreds of young people, volunteers and visitors working and learning onsite are the future leaders in crucial acres of land development and in care of all of creation. The Villa land is a deep part of our FSPA heritage, a legacy left to us by those earliest sisters. Most sisters have walked its trails; we have memories of picnicking with classmates at Puffing Billy, a homemade brick fireplace in the woods. Now this land will be used to help future generations learn best practices of land management.

In his encyclical “Laudato Si’,” Pope Francis speaks of the need to think of the common good in relation to future generations. He writes, “Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others.” 

We honor the legacy of those who came before us by our actions on behalf of the land and facilities we inherited. It is our responsibility to ensure that it will continue long into the future.

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