Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletOctober 20, 2019

Earth Concerns News

Sisters of Earth: An Experience of Hope by Sister Lin Neil, CSJ

AThere are beautiful wild forces within, let them turn the mills inside and fill sacks that feed even heaven@ (St. Francis of Assisi)


This was the theme of this year=s Sisters of Earth Conference, July 15 to July 18 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It was my first experience with Sisters of Earth and what an experience it was! We celebrated the Awild forces@ of passion for Earth and all the dear neighbors of Earth community. We shared the ways we were working to turn the mills of creativity, resourcefulness, tenacity, and roll-up-your -sleeves hard work! We celebrated all the positive outcomes that Afill sacks that feed even heaven.@

            Marion Honors and I enjoyed the opportunities to network with women who are very involved and devoted to the whole Earth community. How many incredible things women are doing to reverence creation and offer hospitality to all creatures! Some examples are religious communities who may have working farms featuring organic farming, or environmental education programs, or free-range chickens, solar energy, eco-spirituality and other ways to be in harmony with the land. Some women work in urban areas connecting the poor with natural experiences. Others made urban gardens and had beginning workshops where poor folks could create crafts for sale.

Other women are involved in eco-justice issues: working to stop genetically modified food, publicizing the Earth Charter, cleaning up streams. Women told of simple, sustainable efforts that are being made to heal Earth.

            The most heart-rending stories were shared by two women from West Virginia, who told their stories about how coal companies were destroying their mountains, their homes and their whole way of life by mountain top removal. This is a mining method that blasts the tops off the mountains to remove a vein of coal. The mountaintop is totally denuded. Since there are no trees to absorb the rain, water flows down from the mountains causing flash floods, ADebris@ from blasting is kept in holding wells. At times these wells break open and rocks, boulders, water rumble down the mountain onto unsuspecting people. Families live in terror. They are being systematically forced from their land, sometimes without remuneration for the destruction of their property. Many families are fifth and sixth generation mountain people- they love their close-to-the-land living, they love the mountains. They are suing the coal companies responsible for these outrages, but the companies, politicians and sometimes the government regulating agencies, like the Department of Environmental Conservation and Environmental Protection Agency are all in league with each other. Now these mountain folks are banning together to try to let the American people hear what is happening to the mountains and the people. (If you want to know more about this issue read the article on Mountaintop Mines in the July 30th National Catholic Reporter). Justice for Earth and justice for the poor are definitely wedded together!

            But even the telling of these gut tearing stories did not dampen the hope and empowerment the Conference drummed up! (Literally-our rituals included drumming-the heart beat of Earth!)  We know that by standing together as sisters engaged in the great work of caring for Earth and her whole community- all the dear neighbors, we have the strength to overcome the destructiveness that over shadows creation.

            The Sisters of Earth Conference was about tapping into those beautifully wild, hopeful places within ourselves so that we could continue to support, encourage, and work for the good of Earth- which is the good of all!


(September 2004)