“This Good Work” is the Congregation’s bi-monthly e-newsletter to give witness to Precious Blood Spirituality through the lens of social justice, rooted in Gospel values and Catholic social teaching. In it we share real, legitimate information and ways Sisters are thinking about and living out many issues of peace, justice and ecology. This is curated by Peace, Justice and Ecology Coordinator Jen Morin-Williamson and features articles by Sisters.
Responding to the cry of the Earth
By Jen Morin-Williamson, Peace, Justice, and Ecology Coordinator
I carry reusable bags into the grocery, use cloth napkins at dinner and say “no thank you” to straws in restaurants. I compost, recycle and thrift shop. I am that person. My actions reflect the values of the Sisters of the Precious Blood in responding to the cry of the blood of Christ, which is poured out for all, especially the poor. Climate change disproportionally affects the poor.
In June 2015, Pope Francis published his second encyclical, called “Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home,” in which he takes an honest and hard look at the impact of human beings on the planet. (Read it free here.) After years of consulting with scientists from around the world, Pope Francis felt compelled to address this letter to everyone on the planet to work together to address the degradation of the environment and the resulting acceleration of climate change. He beautifully weaves together our biblical understanding of humans’ right relationship with nature and our Church teaching that stresses the inter-relationship of all living and nonliving things — both living creatures and plants as well as the planet itself. This calls for a shift toward a cultural mindset prioritizing people AND the environment over domination, consumerism and profit. Read More
This call to listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor resonated deeply with the Sisters of the Precious Blood. The Sisters began reflecting, praying and acting in their own lives and in the life of the Congregation. In early 2019, under the Assembly Directives and with the directive of the Congregation Leadership Council, a group of Sisters began publishing a newsletter, Grassroots, with a major focus on Laudato Si. In 2018, the Sisters of the Precious Blood were named a Laudato Si Community by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. While the solar field on Denlinger Road has been the largest and most obvious demonstration of the Sisters’ commitment to upholding the values of Laudato Si, there have been dozens of other initiatives that respond to the Pope’s letter.
Each opportunity was supported by education and conversation. That can be difficult because of the evolving ways we consider and talk about care for creation. As well, business has capitalized on this concern to sell their products coining words and phrases meant to tap into an ecological consciousness: environmentally responsible, earth friendly, green, sustainable, recyclable, pre-consumer recycled, post-consumer recycled, compostable, organic, carbon footprint and life-cycle assessment. The list is ever-expanding. What does it all mean? In our next issue, I’ll unpack a few of these terms.
Graphic at right by Mary Knapke; photo at top, in slider, by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
Caring for our common home with clean solar energy
By Sister Linda Pleiman, CPPS
Over many years, the Sisters of the Precious Blood have taken actions to help protect our environment where and when we can. We have been recycling, changing out our light bulbs to LEDs, and adjusting our thermostats either lower or higher to reduce our fossil fuel consumption. In our most recent Assemblies, there were Directives encouraging the Congregation to take more steps to support the environment and reduce our “carbon footprint.” In 2015, our congregational leadership decided that it was time to explore solar energy production with our properties in Dayton. Read More
Since this was a new effort, it was decided to start small by putting solar panels on two of the buildings. Orchard House (a residence) and the Congregational Administrative Offices were chosen. After some research, a company was chosen, and work began. Leadership was pleased with the installation and, later, the results of the panels on the two buildings, so the decision was made to build a solar array to supply electricity to Salem Heights, our central house in Dayton. Work began in 2019. The array was built on land that had once been an orchard — but most of the trees had long been replaced, so there was an open space to build the array. In all, 1,696 panels were installed.
The array became operational in July 2020. The system can produce 557.57 kWh on sunny days, somewhat less on cloudy days. This translates to supplying about 60% of the electrical needs of Salem Heights. It also means that we have saved about 1,180 barrels of fossil fuels and reduced about 1,500 tons of CO2.
When a new garage was built at the Farm House (another residence), it was designed to hold solar panels; in 2022, solar panels were installed on the roof of the residence in Redlands, California. As Sisters of the Precious Blood, it is in our DNA — or, if you will, “our blood” — to care for God’s creation where and when we can.
At right and at top, in slider, solar panel array on Denlinger Rd., Dayton; Jen Morin-Williamson photos
Precious Planet Awards
By Sister Marla Gipson, CPPS
Recently I was privileged to participate in part of a plan to put Laudato Si into action. This plan came about through the creative efforts initiated by Jen Morin-Williamson, our peace, justice and ecology coordinator, as she reflected on the Sisters’ legacy as educators alongside her own experience of parenting children. She pondered how something sustainable could connect school children and their families with the teachings of Laudato Si. Read More
Jen knew educating children also educates the family. She also knew that school teachers are already overloaded. Therefore Jen zeroed in on the idea of science fairs as a place to start. She contacted three schools, initiating a process for students to do science projects with an opportunity to receive a considerable award. The awards were titled the Precious Planet Awards. The three schools contacted were Mother Brunner Catholic School in Trotwood, St. Peter Elementary School in Huber Heights, and St. Christopher School in Vandalia.
Each school graciously accepted the challenge for their students to participate in these Laudato Si environmental projects. Jen also recruited a number of Sisters to judge these projects and to hand out the awards with the entire student body present. For Mother Brunner School these projects restarted their science fairs. St. Peter’s chose to do the environmental projects with their eighth-graders. St. Christopher School chose to do the projects with their seventh-graders.
The Sister judges were Sisters Paula Gero, Linda Pleiman, Mary E. Wendeln, Margo Young and Judy Niday. The Sisters who distributed the awards were Sisters Paula Gero, Judy Niday, Mary E. Wendeln and Marla Gipson. The first-place award was a $500 scholarship toward any Catholic high school. Secondary awards ranged from science kits to gold medals.
I was blessed with the opportunity to hand out the awards at Mother Brunner School and St. Peter’s School. Prior to the initiation of these Laudato Si projects, the understanding and consciousness of the goals of Laudato Si by the students and the teachers was minimal. After the success of this pilot year with this initiative, I can safely say that a true collaboration was born between the Sisters and the schools to further everyone’s education of caring for the environment — a win-win for all!
At right, Sisters Margo Young and Paula Gero discuss the science fair project with a student from St. Peter Elementary School; Sisters Judy Niday and Mary E. Wendeln with a student and her science fair project at St. Peter Elementary School; Jen Morin-Williamson photos. At top, in slider, Mother Brunner school students with their awards; Michelle Bodine photo
Tea roses and me
By Sister Mary Garascia, CPPS
Three years ago, during the first spring after I moved into Salem Heights, our central house in Dayton, I resumed one of my “hobbies,” growing hybrid tea roses. I’ve added a couple of them in each year since then, mostly to the front rose bed. Flowers are beautiful, but modern roses are beautiful “in spades” because they bloom continuously all summer.
I really became pretty good at growing roses when I met Father Richard Jozwiack. A senior priest in the Saginaw diocese, he helped in the parish I led. He had lost his rose garden when he retired to a condo, so I invited him to start one in the yard of our parish house. I became his assistant and student, and by the end of my term, we had over 100 different hybrid tea roses! Read More
Roses are an ancient plant. They appear in Minoan jewelry and frescos before 1400 B.C., and in Chinese and Greek gardens by 500 B.C. Roses only began to be cultivated in Europe around 1700 and accelerated in the 1900s. That’s when a Chinese species bred for 1,000 years, Rosa chinensis, became the preferred root stock for developing the roses we love today.
Before hybrid tea roses were developed, “old roses” (also called antique or heirloom roses) mostly bloomed only once, and mostly pink and more like shrubs. But they had lovely fragrances, classified as rose, nasturtium, violet, apple, lemon, clove. The first recognized hybrid tea was La France, introduced in 1867. Unfortunately, when hybridizing began, the old rose fragrance was lost, but in the last decades, it has been added back into many newer hybrid tea roses. I choose only fragrant species for our gardens. Hybrid tea roses were bred to bloom continuously, and today there are many colors and color combinations.
We also have other kinds of roses in our Salem Heights beds. Most common is landscape or bush rose. Being older, our bush roses do not have fragrance, but they do bloom continuously all summer. Occasionally you’ll also see a miniature (shrub type) rose in a border if Sisters ask me to plant their little rose gifts for them! Hybrid tea roses are taller roses, with mostly single flowers, on long stems suitable for cutting.
June is the month when roses are the most fragrant. Hopefully by the beginning of June, we will begin having a rose or two at our front desk until Thanksgiving. When we see a magnificent hybrid tea rose and smell its fragrance, our eyes and noses hopefully open our minds and hearts to the beauty of our earth, to its fecundity and preciousness, to our duty toward our earth, and to the Source of all beauty.
Photo at right by Arashiyama, public domain; photo at top, in slider, by Tuân Nguyễn Minh on Unsplash