“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.
Am I green?
By Jen Morin-Williamson, Peace, Justice, and Ecology Coordinator
As an outgrowth of the Sisters’ commitment to Laudato Si, there is a team of Sisters and staff who regularly meet to encourage the Congregation and ourselves individually toward greater care for creation. And we have found that it is complicated. While we may be looking to offset deforestation, we may be increasing the use of fossil fuels to have our bamboo toilet paper shipped from China to Dayton. So we talk about how and where we can compromise, and we really dig into what the labels really mean.
“Environmentally responsible,” “earth friendly” and “green” cover a variety of possible factors — and really none specifically. You have to read the packaging or check the website to see what the manufacturer means. It could just be marketing. “Sustainable” or “made with sustainable processes” is similarly vague, but it implies the impact to the environment is reduced because of a broader overview of the product and not just how it was made or what it was made with. “Recyclable” means that the product has the potential to be recycled. That, however, is dependent on the ability to gather the items and that there are facilities able to recycle them. “Pre-consumer recycled” products are made or partially made with products that are the byproducts of the manufacturing process. For example, the extra fabric after the pattern pieces of the garment is cut out can be a pre-consumer recycled material. “Post-consumer recycled” products are the same idea, but the materials have been used by a consumer before they are reused in the manufacturing process. It’s what we put in our recycling bins. Read More
Food is another big area with many environmental concerns. “Compost” is taking waste from food (or any organic material) and putting it in a place to allow the natural process of decaying to take place. The result is natural fertilizer. There are now many products made that are “compostable.” These can be placed directly in compost piles or bins. But even if they are not, they are still beneficial because they will decompose naturally in the landfill without releasing toxins. Purchasing organic food is another way to support farming that does not use chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides which obviously can adversely affect the soil. There is a lot of controversy around certification and verification of organic practices around the legitimate use of the label “organic.” The use of chemicals in farming is an example of a very complex issue.
Like all environmental issues, understanding the many facets, both positive and negative, is imperative. Experts have created ways to look at environmental impact from accessing raw materials, manufacturing products or processing of foods, transportation and the potential for recycling or composting of items after use. This is called “life-cycle assessment.” Determining the “carbon footprint” of a product or action is similar but with the focus on measuring the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds released from the use of fossil fuels, which is the largest contributor to accelerated climate change caused by human beings. “Greenhouse gas” refers to all emissions that trap the sun’s heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, which leads to accelerated global warming. I use the term “accelerated” to acknowledge that the Earth’s environment and atmosphere naturally undergo change but at an exponentially slower pace than is happening now as the direct result of human impact.
Wow! That’s a lot. So how do we keep from feeling paralyzed? I think we draw on inspiration from our faith, educate ourselves and take one step at a time. I started by just buying organic bananas and recycling my aluminum cans.
Graphic at right by Mary Knapke; compost photo at top, in slider, by Pixabay
Planting seeds for the future
By Sister Judy Niday, CPPS
Five Rivers MetroParks serves Montgomery County, Ohio, by protecting 16,000 acres of green space and waterways throughout the area. Among 18 parks and six recreational trails, Five Rivers MetroParks offers shelters and camping sites, and horseback and walking trails. The organization also manages the 2nd Street Market, which operates near downtown Dayton in a former railroad building, as well as annual events and conservation and education programs.
I became a volunteer for MetroParks in 2014 because I love nature and working outdoors in the dirt, nurturing growth from the soil. Volunteering for MetroParks also stems from our CPPS mission to “be a life-giving, reconciling presence in our fractured world.”
I have assisted children ages 3 to 12 in learning how to grow a garden and encouraged them to appreciate history in finding fossils in a creek. I’ve helped children ages 12 to 16 work in a demonstration garden, planting, harvesting and preparing a meal from their produce. I’ve participated in park clean-up of trash or weeding; decorated for the children’s Halloween Activity Night; assisted in planting native bushes and trees after honeysuckle invasion was cleared; and served as an ambassador for patrons, greeting them as they arrive and assisting them with any questions they might have. Read More
Being present to and with staff, partners, volunteers and children in work, play and appreciation of nature and our well-being is my call to be a life-giving and reconciling presence in the world and to others.
At right, Sister Judy at Possum Creek, picking greens for home cooking; at top, in slider, Shela and Sister Judy at Salem Heights, packaging three different types of vegetable seeds for MetroParks’ Family Home Gardening project; contributed photos
New Life … New Beginnings
By Sister Martha Bertke, CPPS, and Sister Mary Lou Schmersal, CPPS
Sparked by a recent comment and conversation, this spring we decided to try offering a time of reflection for a small group of women of the area. April 26 found 19 women gathered to reflect on insights the spring season offers: planting of seeds, the renewed energy to notice the seeds planted within our own hearts, and discovering the invitation of Pope Francis to learn about Laudato Si, an encyclical on “Care for Our Common Home.”
Our retreat planning team included congregational staff members Cristen Allen, administrative secretary, and Sarah Aisenbrey, archivist, as well as Sonnie Bernardi, a parishioner at St. Paul Parish in Englewood, Ohio. We began with a prayer on the beauty and wonder of creation. Next, we led a reflection on the incredible potential of a simple seed, as well as what a seed needs to be nourished and to grow. We discussed the questions: How do we nourish the life of Christ in us and allow it to grow? Is there something our Church is calling forth from each of us? With that in mind, we focused on a current reality of life: our environment, and words of wisdom from Pope Francis. Read More
In Laudato Si, the pope offers us wisdom about caring for the environment. Published in 2015, it is the first encyclical in the Church’s history to address the environment. Francis explains that society, technology, economics and culture are all interrelated with the natural environment. He also connects the environment with basic values of life, love of God and neighbor, family and the common good.
During the retreat, we shared handouts which gave more information about the pope’s insights and why Catholics care for creation, including concrete ideas, resources and ways to be more mindful and caring of our earth and for one another.
Our team efforts paid off with our celebration of Mass together with other Sisters, by sharing lunch and lively conversations among the group. The time together ended in great, positive comments and gratitude.
At right, Sister Mary Lou Schmersal, Cristen Allen, Sister Martha Bertke, Sonnie Bernardi and Sarah Aisenbrey; contributed photo. At top, in slider, seedlings photo by Pixabay.
Our Environmental Mindset
By Sheena McCormick, Administrator of Salem Heights
I have been the administrator for Salem Heights — the Sisters’ central house in Dayton — for just over a year. One of the many things I’ve found inspiring since coming aboard as a congregational employee is the Sisters’ commitment to an “environmental mindset.” As employees, we are called to foster a “healthy, peaceful and wholesome environment in which all residents may truly enjoy living” — and environmental consciousness is one of the many ways we accomplish that. Here are some of the steps we’ve taken here at Salem Heights:
- In our dining room, recycling bins are easily accessible to both Sisters and food service employees. Lists of acceptable items are also posted to help educate those who are unsure of which items are recyclable.
- For disposable food containers and cutlery, we are moving away from Styrofoam and plastic and instead using compostable paper products. Straws are also made of recycled paper, and trash bags are made from recycled products. We are currently evaluating various options for water containers.
- Food Service is also using large containers of dish soap to fill smaller containers. This reduces the amount of plastic being purchased and enables us to reuse containers multiple times. Housekeeping has purchased bamboo facial tissues, toilet tissue and paper towels to try out in the common bathrooms at Salem Heights. Housekeeping Supervisor Liz Miller is observing and recording how quickly the products are being used to assist in the breakdown of the financial impact of this change. I also continue to collaborate with our Food Service and Housekeeping departments to determine cost-effective and environmentally friendly improvements in our use of cleaning supplies.
- It has been an interesting and eye-opening process as we remain open to new ideas and continue to analyze various approaches. For example, we discussed using cloth napkins in our dining room — but the local public health department advised us that the napkins would have to be laundered after each use. So we have decided to continue using paper napkins made from recycled content.
Additional ways to be “greener” are being investigated. We are all in this together, and working as a team will help ensure that employees are encouraged to follow the directives and values of the Sisters, and that we all have the tools and knowledge to do so.
At right, Sister Katie Lett stops by the Recycle Room at Salem Heights to recycle her newspaper; photo at top, in slider, the Salem Heights Recycle Room; Jen Morin-Williamson photos.
With God at the Beach
By Teri Iverson, Vocation Ministry Coordinator
The beach is my happy place — it’s the place where I always feel closest to Jesus. Any beach, anywhere. The sounds … squawking seagulls looking for a snack; squeals of small children building sandcastles; waves crashing. The smells … salty air; hot dogs sizzling; the distinctive aroma of sunscreen. The feels … sand between the toes; the coolness of the ocean water; the gentle breeze. The tastes … iced-down Diet Coke; sweet watermelon; the saltiness of accidentally swallowing some seawater. The sights … sandcastles; ships sailing along in the distance; the ebb and flow of the water. All of it is deeply spiritual to me — especially the latter. Read More
I am reminded that God’s love is like the vastness of the ocean … it is deep and wide and never-ending. While the amount of water in the ocean is finite, it is the closest thing I can imagine to how God loves us. The coming forth and receding of the water reminds me of God’s persistence in wanting to be a part of our everyday lives. God keeps trying second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, month by month, year by year. Waiting. Continuing to love with the patience none of us can fathom even when we reject him … even when we sin. As I walk along the beach, closest to the water, I can look back and see the imprints I’ve made, and I compare those imprints I’ve made on those around me. Are they Godly? Do I live in a way that shows my belief in God is certain? Do I “preach the Gospel at all times, using words only when necessary”? Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. But, like the waves that rush up, wash over my footprints and whisk them away, leaving the sand pristine once again, God’s forgiveness comes along. It washes my inadequacy and sin away and leaves me sparkling again.
And I continue on … sometimes leaving footprints of joy and peace and love that last on others’ hearts, and sometimes leaving hurts and doubt and difficulty. It is in this humanness … in this realization … in this releasing of perfection that God heals. God forgives. And, as the ocean relieves the heat of the day, God’s love soothes our injured souls. God loves. God listens. God sees us. The beach is my happy place … it’s where I always feel closest to Jesus. What part of nature does that for you?
Photos at right and in slider above by Pixabay