Sister Judy Niday manages the project, working with A. Brown & Sons Nursery in Brookville to decide on the best types of trees and locations for planting. A variety of tree species are chosen through research on Ohio native trees or the expertise of Brown’s Nursery, as well as preferences or suggestions Sisters might have for a specific tree. The Congregation’s maintenance crew tends to the trees, particularly in the first year or two, and protects any that are invaded by deer.
“Trees remind me of the rhythm of life we all share. They have seasons and so do we,” Sister Judy said. “It’s amazing how the roots during winter drink in nutrients necessary for them to spring forth greening and shading the earth for summer. They bow and bend just as we do in praise of our Creator. As summer transitions into winter, the fall season bursts into splashes of red, orange and yellow as colder temperatures arrive on the scene. Trees begin to let go and bare their strength to withstand winter once again.”
Behind the Congregation’s decision to initiate the project 16 years ago was Precious Blood spirituality, which at its core holds that all life is sacred. A remembrance written on the third anniversary of the project highlights the connection between Precious Blood spirituality and the memorial trees:
All life has come from the creative hands of God.
Therefore all life, human, plant, animal, must be cared
for, nurtured, respected, maintained. Because this is a
core belief of Precious Blood Eucharistic spirituality, the
Sisters of the Precious Blood during Spirit Days 2004
chose to focus on God’s universe as a means of deepening
the Congregation’s prayer and mission to enter into Jesus’
Ministry of Reconciliation. Depletion of the earth’s vegetation,
specifically trees, is an area of concern as we strive to value
all of creation. In the interest of the gentle care of the
earth as well as to honor each sister who dies, the
Council has elected to plant a tree as a living memorial.
The first tree was planted in honor of Sister Mary Agnes Plas, who cherished the beauty of all creation and instilled this love for the earth into her students as well as the Sisters.
Sister Genevieve Volk enjoys walking through the Memorial Gardens at Salem Heights, the Congregation’s central house in Dayton. When she sees the trees planted in memory of Sisters, “I feel close to the Sisters who are now in heaven. I feel their presence and imagine them smiling down at me and encouraging me to continue the God Quest,” she said.
She continued: “A tree is a lovely and fitting remembrance of a Sister’s life. Like the tree, we are planted on earth to begin our life’s journey. Like the tree, we, with the sunshine and water of God’s grace, grow and stretch toward the heavens where one day we will reach our ultimate goal: to be with God, see God face to face and join our Sisters and our departed loved ones who now enjoy Eternal Bliss.
“As I notice the leaves dropping from these memorial trees, I heed the lesson the falling leaves teach. I, too, must let go, let go of all that keeps me from loving God with my whole heart. Whether it is something big or small this practice of letting go will prepare me for the final letting go: the falling into God’s arms.”
Story by Mary Knapke