The Oblate Ecological Initiative is a ministry of the United States Province of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate located on 255 acres atop the limestone bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River in southwestern Illinois near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.
The Ecological Initiative is part of the ongoing effort of the Oblates to respond to the priority of “justice, peace, and the integrity of creation." This effort calls forth two guiding questions: “What does it mean to be fully human in a continually emerging Universe?” And further, “What does it mean to be a person of faith in a continually emerging Universe?” In response, the Initiative has two components: La Vista Ecological Learning Center, and the Community Supported Garden at La Vista.
The Learning Center seeks to deepen participants’ recognition of the inherent spiritual dimension of the Universe as well as to educate Oblates and others in the area of ecological awareness. Through Earth Literacy Programs, presentations, retreats, seasonal celebrations, discussion courses, and a quarterly newsletter, participants learn of both the wonder and the fragility of Earth. We also explore a practical lifestyle based on a mutually enhancing human-Earth relationship. Our desire is that folks can return to their communities both living and teaching an awareness of creation’s integrity.
Flowing from ecological learning and sustainable living is the other component of the Initiative: the Community Supported Garden at La Vista. Practically linking the people of Earth, this alternative organic food source provides a solution to our ever-growing separation from each other, the Earth and our food supply. On a portion of the grounds, nearly 200 shareholders, a small family farmer and interns come into covenant with each other and the land. Together, wonderful nourishment is harvested from this effort toward an ecologically and economically sustainable model of interdependence and intercommunion.
In 1950 the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a world-wide congregation of priests and brothers dedicated to bringing the Good News to the poor and most abandoned, began a seminary for men on the land called “La Vista” located on 255 acres atop the limestone bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River in southwestern Illinois.
These lovely acres of pastures, woodlands, sinkholes, majestic bluffs, wildlife and fertile soil are now home to a second ministry, the Oblate Ecological Initiative. The Initiative has its roots in a 1997 Oblate statement which initiated an ongoing effort of the Congregation to act “on behalf of justice, peace and the integrity of creation” as an integral part of evangelization.
Father Maurice Lange, OMI, spent two years interning at Genesis Farm in Blairstown, New Jersey gaining a deep awareness that our governments, institutions, and corporations are not acting in accordance with the knowledge of the integrity of Earth, resulting in the abuse of humans, the annihilation of other species, and the poisoning of the life-support systems of the planet. Maurice was equipped at the end of the internship to help found a project that would address this deepened ecological awareness.
After much study and planning, December of 2001 saw the formal birth of the Oblate Ecological Initiative which has two projects: La Vista Ecological Learning Center and the Community Supported Garden at La Vista. The land at La Vista was chosen as the site for the new ministry since there was ample room and fertile soil to support a Garden along with the well-established Novitiate ministry. Father Maurice Lange became the director of the Initiative.
In 2002, the first Earth Literacy programs were offered through the Ecological Learning Center, and the first issue of the Initiative’s newsletter “La Vista Visions” was published in the Spring. That year was also a time for building up the infrastructure for the Community Supported Garden. A greenhouse was erected in October, and a qualified head gardener was hired.
May of 2003 saw the first distribution of organically grown vegetables from the Community Supported Garden at La Vista to forty families. Keeping with the Oblates’ commitment to the poor, ten percent of the shareholders are of low income, receiving their share at a reduced rate. Also, hundreds of pounds of surplus vegetables are donated each season to a local crisis food pantry.
Since 2003 both projects of the Initiative have grown! The Ecological Learning Center offers retreats, Earth Literacy Programs, discussion courses and seasonal celebrations year round. The Community Supported Garden has grown too, now serving nearly 200 shareholders while continuing to offer vegetables to local folks in need.
La Vista Ecological Learning Center educates for deeper ecological awareness, contemplates the ongoing sacred story of the Universe, and celebrates Earth’s seasonal cycles.
The Community Supported Garden at La Vista serves as a source of renewal for human, social and physical health by providing healthy and nutritious food, by the building of a diverse community, and through the practice of social justice.