Sarah McFarland Taylor
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Green sisters are environmentally active Catholic nuns working to heal the earth as they cultivate new forms of religious culture. Inviting us into their world, Taylor offers a firsthand understanding of the experiences of women whose lives bring together orthodoxy and activism, and whose lifestyle provides a compelling view of sustainable living.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-02710-7
    Subjects: Religion, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xx)
  5. INTRODUCTION Planetary Call and Response
    (pp. 1-21)

    It would be an understatement to write that the last few years have been particularly troubling ones for the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Widely publicized abuses within the male hierarchy have created an atmosphere characterized largely by divisiveness, betrayal, and the violation of trust. But amid the painful furor over sex scandals and lawsuits, a much quieter movement is now beginning to garner notice. At the very grassroots of the Church, Catholic religious sisters have faithfully and steadfastly taken up the mission to heal and restore the life systems of the planet.¹ Beginning with the communal lands...

  6. 1. THE GREEN CATHOLIC IMAGINATION Varieties of Companion Planting
    (pp. 22-51)

    It is Sunday morning, August 4, 2002, at the fifth annual international conference of Sisters of Earth in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and about 150 women are gathered together in two concentric circles, waiting to begin the morning ritual. At the center of the circles, a multilevel altar has been constructed to the “Great Mystery” at the heart of the universe. Brightly colored scarves of fiery reds and yellows are draped across several platforms, which are covered with symbols of the evolution of the earth and cosmos and with corresponding symbols of the unfolding of human history. Atop the very highest riser...

  7. 2. STANDING THEIR GROUND From Pioneering Nuns to Bioneering Sisters
    (pp. 52-77)

    On April 22, 1998, Dominican sister Patricia Daly and then CEO of General Electric John F. (“Jack”) Welch, Jr. exchanged words at a General Electric Company shareholders’ meeting. In this excerpt, Daly refers to an Environmental Protection Agency order that General Electric clean up polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination from its Pittsfield, Massachusetts, plant.

    Sister Patricia Daly:Good morning, Mr. Welch, members of the board, and fellow shareholders. My name is Pat Daly. I am a Dominican sister, and I am here representing the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. ICCR has been raising very critical issues before U.S. corporations for almost...

  8. 3. IT ISN’T EASY BEING GREEN Habitat, Habits, and Hybrids
    (pp. 78-114)

    In one of her many books exploring the spiritual dimensions of nature, Annie Dillard remarks, “It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets.”¹ I am reminded of Dillard’s line as I follow my hardhat-clad tour guide, Janet Ryan, around the construction site of the motherhouse ecorenovation project being conducted by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (the “IHMs”) in Monroe, Michigan. Ryan points out a gray-water system, geothermal heating tanks, sustainable cork flooring, and recycled window materials. She provides me the speci-fications on the low-VOC...

  9. 4. “CHANGELESS AND CHANGING” Engaged Monasticism in the Ecozoic Era
    (pp. 115-160)

    It is a cool June morning, and just as the sun begins to peek over the Green Mountains, Sister Gail Worcelo, Sister Bernadette Bostwick, and I file out of the sisters’ modest farmhouse toward their compact Ford Tempo. The car, fairly long in the tooth but neat and clean with its rust spots carefully patched by Bernadette, brings to mind the environmental adage “recycle, reuse, and repair.” Once the three of us are arranged inside the car, Gail takes up a small wooden mallet and strikes a meditation chime located on the dashboard. The chime rings throughout the interior of...

  10. 5. NOURISHING THE EARTHBODY Sacramental Foodways and Culinary Eucharist
    (pp. 161-182)

    The subject of food—its mindful production and conscious consumption—is central to the literature, learning programs, liturgy, prayer, and daily spiritual practice of green sisters. At Sisters of Earth conferences, food has consistently been a topic of major importance and common interest for discussion. In consultation with one another, sisters explore foodways (the eating habits and culinary practices of a particular community, culture, people, region, or historical period) as an entry point for developing more peaceful relations between the human and the more-than-human world.¹ For instance, for some green sisters, the religious practice of abstinence from eating flesh has...

  11. 6. “THE TRACTOR IS MY PULPIT” Sacred Agriculture as Priestly Practice
    (pp. 183-209)

    In the early 1940s, Irish Dominican father Vincent McNabb wrote: “If there is one truth more than any other, which life and thought have made us admit, against our prejudices, and even against our will, it is that there is little hope of saving civilization or religion except by the return of contemplatives to the land.”¹ At the time, McNabb, who championed the cause of the small farmer, almost certainly would have been surprised to learn that more than a half a century later his words would take on deep prophetic significance for a dynamic movement of organic-farming religious sisters....

  12. 7. SAVING SEEDS Heirloom Conservation and Genetic Sanctuaries
    (pp. 210-230)

    Heirloom Tomato Tasting Day has become Heathfield, the appropriately earthy-sounding motherhouse and grounds of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent De Paul in Kingston, Ontario. Each August, the sisters open Heathfield to visitors who feast on more than eighty varieties of “heritage” or “heirloom” tomatoes. Many of the varieties conserved at the Heirloom Seed Sanctuary at Heathfield are more than a hundred years old; many are no longer available in seed catalogs or from distributors. More familiar tomato heirlooms such as Brandywine (1885) and Beauty (1886) grace the sisters’ tasting tables, as do rarer varieties such as Honor Bright...

  13. 8. STATIONS OF THE EARTH Body Prayer, Labyrinths, and Other Peripatetic Rituals
    (pp. 231-259)

    It is early in the morning before breakfast at the Dominican motherhouse located atop Sinsinawa Mound, a natural outcropping of dolomite stone that rises up from surrounding lowlands where the Mississippi River flows through the southwest corner of Wisconsin. The Lakota name for the mound, “Manitoumie,” means “where the Great Spirit dwells.” The Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa have lived on this mound since their founding in 1847. A little more than 150 years later, the community has become host to the third international Sisters of Earth Conference. On this morning, a gathering of religious sisters from the conference is assembled...

  14. CONCLUSION Stepping into the Future
    (pp. 260-288)

    Rather than politely ignore the “elephant in the motherhouse,” Dominican sister Sharon Zayac has made it her business to address head-on fears that reverence for the earth and earth spirituality may really be nature worship:

    It is safe to say that many, if not most, of us Catholics in the Western world struggle with reconciling what we are beginning to learn about the origins of life with both what we have grown up believing about nature and what we think our Church teaches us about creation. We are wary, if not frightened, of dabbling with pantheism and nature worship. A...

    (pp. 289-292)
  16. NOTES
    (pp. 293-350)
    (pp. 351-352)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 353-363)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 364-364)