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Franciscan Earth Literacy Center (FELC)

Abstract An outreach mission of the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Charity, the Franciscan Earth Literacy Center (FELC) is an environmental education and sustainability center grounded in the Franciscan vision of the oneness of all creation. The Center is located on 500 acres of land owned by the Sisters in Tiffin, Ohio. A local farmer grows corn, wheat, and soybeans on 385 acres of this land using conventional farming methods. The remainder of the congregation’s property includes the convent buildings and grounds, herb and flower gardens, woodlands, walking trails, wetlands, and an organic garden tended by FELC staff. Beginning in 2005, an additional six acres of land will be cultivated as a market garden to provide fresh, organic produce for the local population. Serving as a sustainability demonstration site, the Center provides numerous opportunities for hands-on learning, discussion, reflection, and action for both children and adults on issues ranging from organic gardening, permaculture design, habitat restoration, wildlife study, nature appreciation, and sustainable living. The Center won the 1998 State of Ohio award for its innovative renovation of an old dairy barn, which is now the main building of the FELC. Using permaculture design principles that aim to work with, rather than against, nature, the Sisters made use of a variety of recycled materials in the building process, including insulation made from cotton clothing and carpeting composed of recycled plastic milk jugs. The structure uses passive solar, wind, and air technology to create energy efficient climate control (e.g., radiant floor heat instead of forced air, ceiling fans and vents instead of air conditioning) and lighting (e.g., sun-pipes which radiate the equivalent of a 200-watt light bulb by collecting and channeling light from the sun).
Religion Christianity
(Roman Catholic)
Geographic Location United States of America
(Tiffin, Ohio)
Duration of Project 1994–Present

Although the FELC was officially founded in 1994, its origins date back to 1992, when the Sisters of St. Francis adopted a Directional Statement committing the Congregation to live out the Franciscan vision of living in harmony with creation by creating a model of sustainable community on their property. To help them become better stewards of their land and resources, the Sisters hired Father Al Fritsch of Appalachia Science in the Public Interest to conduct an environmental resource audit. In 1993, the community formed a task force, called the Resource Audit Committee, to develop a Ten Year Plan based on the results of the environmental audit. The Plan, which originally consisted of twelve major areas in need of attention, was approved by the Congregation in 1994, and an office of Earth Literacy was established to help implement this plan. The Plan’s focus areas were subsequently limited to five: Spirituality, Land Resources, Wildlife Resources, Energy Resources, and Environmental Education. Seeking to provide hands-on environmental education programs, the Sisters decided to establish an Earth Literacy Center that would also serve as a model of sustainable resource use and permaculture design. Using permaculture principles to renovate the old dairy barn, the Sisters built an ecologically and economically sound structure to house the Earth Literacy Center. Both the building process and the completed structure itself were meant to demonstrate sustainability. In 1998, the FELC received the State of Ohio award for the most innovative use of recycled products in a building project.

Mission Statement “In the Spirit of St. Francis, the FELC recognizes the oneness with all creation. We promote active learning and healthy relationships with our natural environment to achieve sustainable living.”
Partner Organizations Tiffin YMCA
Recycling and Litter Prevention Office
Campfire Girls Association
Tiffin Public Library
Long-Term Goals None Listed
Bibliography None Listed
Additional Research Resources None Listed
Contact Information Franciscan Earth Literacy Center
194 St. Francis Ave.
Tiffin, OH 44883
Ph:        419.448.7485
Fax:      419.448.7486
Email:  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)