By Barb Arland-Fye
Fuzzy goslings tottered across the Mississippi River Trail in Bettendorf as I approached on my bicycle, one more awesome sign of God’s handiwork on earth. Spring is my favorite season, a time when the sun rises earlier and sets later, a time for trees, flowers and plants to blossom, a time for walks along the river with family members. It is time to stop and inhale the fragrance of lilacs, which I did one morning last week outside diocesan headquarters. Brian, who works in maintenance, misunderstood my lingering as an attempt to get into the building through another door!
We are in the midst of Laudato Si’ Week (May 22-29), which celebrates the seventh anniversary of the encyclical “Laudato Si” that Pope Francis wrote as a call “for healing in our relationships with God, our neighbors, and the Earth itself” (laudatosiactionplatform.org/about/).
Six months ago, the Vatican launched the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, an initiative with seven areas of focus: families, parishes and dioceses, educational institutions, healthcare institutions, organizational groups, the economic sector, and religious orders.
To coincide with Laudato Si’ Week, the Sisters of St. Francis of Clinton launched their action plan to fulfill their commitment to the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. “Our mission of living and promoting active nonviolence and peacemaking is essential to bringing about the future envisioned in Laudato Sí,” said Sister Jan Cebula, president of the Clinton Franciscans. “Understanding that all life is interdependent — what affects one, affects us all — is what guides us in working toward the protection and healing of the earth and all of Creation.”
Read about their action plan (clintonfranciscans.com/our-mission/ laudato-si-action-platform), which is impressive! The Franciscan Peace Center will be instrumental in carrying out many of the plan’s objectives, according to a news release.
One aspect of the Clinton Franciscans’ Laudato Si Action Plan that I appreciate most is their commitment to engage a contractor to evaluate the ratio of land cover to the needs of wildlife habitat on the Canticle property. The Canticle is the sisters’ motherhouse. The changes will include long-term restoration practices, along with land preservation.
The Congregation of the Humility of Mary, based in Davenport, also cares for the earth in many ways, with Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat in Wheatland as a prime example. In a 2019 OpEd, Sister Johanna Rickl, now president of the community, shared how the Sisters of Humility had legally protected land near Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat through a conservation easement. “We aim to improve the health of the Wapsipinicon River and create better habitat for many different plants and animals, in addition to capturing carbon,” she wrote.
“More benefits ripple forth. The prairie grasses and flowers offer opportunities for bees, butterflies and other insects to do their important work in human food production. The land will help preserve a quiet setting for more effective retreats and contemplative experiences for people seeking to nourish their relationship to self, God and others. The solar panels installed at the retreat center and at the Franciscan Sisters’ home in Clinton reduce our carbon emissions; they also lower electrical costs, enabling us to put more resources into our charity work,” Sister Rickl pointed out.
The Clinton Franciscans and the Sisters of Humility inspire me with their commitment to “walk the talk” of healing our relationships with God, our neighbors and earth itself, as Pope Francis has been asking us to do throughout his papacy.
On a walk along the Mississippi River this past Sunday with my younger son, Patrick, I reflected on the interwoven elements of our pilgrim journey that link our relationship with God, with each other and with earth itself. “Watch out for the ducks,” Patrick cautioned, as we walked toward a family of ducks that included a protective mother and her babies. That’s what God asks us to do, pay attention, show respect and love for all of God’s creatures.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)