Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletSeptember 25, 2017

Called to Mystery: Called to More

The sacredness of all life and creation motivates our urgent concern for Earth and the survival of its life systems.

Destructive aspects of globalization, the unequal distribution and use of resources and other human behaviors affect those who are economically poor and marginalized most immediately and intensely.

Sisters of St. Joseph
Acts of Congregational Chapter 2007
 


The Home/Land Committee

Beginnings
The Home/Land Committee of the Albany Province of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet had its earliest beginnings in 1993 when Sisters Mary Ellen Curtin and Marion Honors invited any interested Sisters to be part of a grassroots group which they called the Land Trust Inquiry Group. At that time, a movement to preserve their land had been initiated among the religious communities situated along the Hudson River which flows from upper New York State into the Atlantic Ocean at New York City. These communities realized their property would be valuable to developers and with declining numbers they felt it was essential to find ways to preserve the lands.

Land Policy
Those who responded to the invitation met in Utica, NY, to see about the feasibility of preserving the Provincial House Land by having a land trust. (Sister Marion had learned of this trust through Genesis Farm in New Jersey, which had been established by Sister Miriam Therese, a pioneer in environmental concerns.)
 
After the meeting, Sister Marion spoke with Sister Mary Anne Hayes, a canonical lawyer, about the canonical aspects of a trust and learned that such a trust would “tie the hands of the Provincial Superior/Province Leadership” if, as time went on, there was a need to divest ourselves of the land for our support or survival. Since a land trust did not prove to be feasible canonically for us, a Land Policy was drawn up as an alternative and after several revisions, was included in the Province Policy Book in 1997. This policy provides the Sisters with the opportunity of being notified and included in any decisions regarding major changes to the land and/or building. Several Sisters then proposed that a committee be formed to raise awareness among members of the Province about issues that were especially pertinent to Earth and the environment; hence the establishment of the Home/Land Committee early in 1994.
 
Autumn Equinox
In September of 1994, Sister Marion Charlene Honors, an artist and member of the Albany Province, proposed and initiated an Autumn Equinox to be held at the Provincial House. At this original celebration, several of the Sisters offered presentations on the geography, history, culture and flora and fauna of the land, beginning with the origins of the land masses, seas and weather.
 
Land Audit and Recommendations
One of the first efforts made by the committee was that of having a Resource Audit performed by Al Fritsch, SJ and Associates of Resource Assessment Services. This audit involved a two-day assessment of the land and the buildings on the Provincial House grounds in April of 1996. Recommendations were then offered by the team in the form of an Environmental Resource Assessment and Recommendations that the Province could then address over a period of time.
Some of the recommendations that were eventually acted upon and achieved: 
  • investigating pesticide use on the trees of the property. A representative of the tree company that was tending the trees at that time met with committee members and eventually began using more environmentally friendly products in their treatment of the trees on the grounds. (The trees are no longer being sprayed.)labeling the trees on the property in order to assist all persons in recognizing the trees and their value. One tree in particular stood out: a Great Swamp White Oak, estimated to be over 350 years old. This tree became a symbol for us since the CSJs were first established in France in the 1650’s, at approximately the same time that this tree was a mere sapling!
  • turning the broad expanse of field on the East side of the property into a meadow-like area by refraining from extensive (and expensive) mowing of the land. Instead, the grasses are allowed to grow until mid-to-late August when a local farmer comes to mow and bale it as bedding for his animals. Now bobolinks and other birds that need a meadow-like area for nesting are coming back year after year to delight all with their unique color and song;
  • using energy-efficient lighting throughout the Provincial House;
  • utilizing Carondelet East, the province publication for Sisters and Associates as a medium for educating members of specific issues and needs of Earth. Some of these issues have included a focus on Genetic Engineering and Irradiation of Food; the Earth Charter; Water issues; Food sustainability. Occasionally local issues are also highlighted.           
Since the 1997 Congregational Chapter, we have attempted to frame our Committee’s work within the Act of Chapter: Communion with Creation: Right Relationship with Earth. Currently, the Committee is utilizing Carondelet East to highlight the way various sections of the Earth Charter are connected with the 2007 CSJ Act of Chapter on Deepening Communion with Creation. Members of the committee choose a section each month and write a reflective piece that will hopefully evoke further insights into issues facing Earth and her people in our time.
 
Practical Results
On a practical level, the committee was instrumental in the decision of the administration to avoid the use of Styrofoam cups at meetings.  One of the first acts of the Province Administration (2004-2008) was to initiate the purchase of Fair-Trade Coffee for the Provincial House. More recently, because of the information presented in Carondelet East, the Sisters of the Provincial House requested that bottled water no longer be purchased and made available at community meetings or for any other purpose.
 
Green Hospitality Center
Perhaps the greatest achievement occurred during the 2006-2007 renovation of part of the building that would be used as a Hospitality Center for various groups. The Leadership Team engaged a team of architects who were certified by the US Green Building Council in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDS).
Throughout the entire process, they used design and construction practices that significantly reduced the negative impact of the building project on the environment and its occupants. Whenever possible, the contractors and subcontractors used energy-efficiency and renewable energy, promoted water efficiency, conserved materials by recycling and promoted air quality utilizing low emitting paint and carpet materials. As a result, Carondelet Hospitality Center is truly an environmentally sustainable building that affords a beautiful and peaceful welcome to all who come its way.
 


Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet • 385 Watervliet-Shaker Road • Latham, NY 12110-4799
Main Provincal House Number (518) 783-3500 • Fax (518) 783-5209

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