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Posted October 7, 2004

Women religious issue booklet
urging everyone to be earth-friendly

By Sister Beth Kress
Catholic News Service

DUBUQUE, Iowa (CNS) -- Thirteen communities of Catholic sisters in the Midwest have created a slender 16-page booklet titled "Sharing Sacred Spaces" to share their belief that the land and rivers are sacred spaces and to urge people to engage in earth-friendly ventures.

The booklet says that as Catholic sisters who make the Upper Mississippi Valley their home, they are "working together to create awareness of the values we hold in common."

"We value this gift, this land. We invite you to learn more about our communities and our stewardship efforts. May our efforts inspire your efforts, and your efforts inspire others," it says.

"Sharing Sacred Spaces" invites the public to visit and celebrate creation with the sisters at their motherhouses, retreat and spirituality centers, prairies and woodlands.

"Sharing Sacred Spaces" is being placed in city and state welcome centers and other visitor venues and businesses in the region.

The sisters believe that all people can become better friends to the Earth and all of its inhabitants. They say that contemplating the spirit of God within all things will enable people to see more clearly that each individual, the Earth and the whole universe are part of the collection of subjects to be reverenced and not objects to be used and discarded.

The 13 communities that collaborated on the booklet represent nearly 3,000 Catholic sisters of the Upper Mississippi.

Many of the communities are signatories of the "Earth Charter," an international people's agreement for a compassionate, just and sustainable world.

The charter, written by thousands of people in 78 countries and published in 2000, calls for economic and social justice, peace, democracy, and ecological integrity and recognizes the interdependence of human beings and nature. The complete document can be found at www.earthcharter.org.

Among the sisters' earth-friendly acts are sustainable farming and living; organic gardening of vegetables and orchards, planting of flowers, shrubs, and trees, and prairie restoration; personal and institutional recycling; use of alternative and renewable energy; eco-tours and eco-programming; earth and creation spirituality and retreat offerings.

"We want to tell others of our stewardship initiatives and retreat locales. In 'Sharing Sacred Spaces' we have chosen to give potential guests some 'scenic byways' with a verbal tour and map so that they may find us and share in our efforts," said Sister Mira Mosle, director of communications for Dubuque Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"All of the 13 groups of sisters in the Upper Mississippi Valley are committed to a focus on environment, land and river stewardship," said Pam Brookens, communication director for the Dubuque Sisters of St. Francis.

"Retreat centers, which we sponsor and operate, are in rural areas; some sisters' communities have done geothermal projects; others have restored prairie and woodlands. Some communities are investing in solar cars, among other planetary stewardship efforts," she told The Witness, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.

The "Sharing Sacred Spaces" booklet was prepared and published by Sisters United News, known as SUN, which is made up of communicators of 13 religious congregations of the Upper Mississippi Valley.

Member congregations in Iowa include: Sisters of St. Francis in Clinton; Sisters of Humility of Mary in Davenport; Sisters of Mercy in Cedar Rapids; Carmelite Sisters in Eldridge; Dominican Sisters of the Roman Congregation, Iowa City; and Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sisters of St. Francis, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sisters of the Visitation, Trappistine Sisters, all in Dubuque.

The other congregation members are Benedictine Sisters in Rock Island, Ill.; Dominican Sisters in Sinsinawa, Wis.; and Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse, Wis.

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Editor's note: To receive a copy of the booklet, contact Pamela Brookens at (563) 583-9786.