The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia have made a commitment to the environment based on their Franciscan charism, which sees all of creation as sister and brother. Adopting the principles of interconnectedness, sustainability, education, and practicality as guides for action, the sisters, in collaboration with Neumann College, support a Franciscan Center for Earth Education. The congregation's motherhouse, Our Lady of Angels Convent; the sister's retirement residence, Assisi House; and Neumann College occupy much of the 295 acres. Less than 180 acres of the property remain undeveloped. Demands for further development have led the sisters to examine their own environmental practices and promote the care of the land.
Organic gardening, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), and other practices are direct expressions of the sustainable ecological principles important to the sisters. Red Hill Farm CSA, one of the sisters' environmental initiatives, is a six-acre farm. The farm provides fresh, organic produce for the sisters and approximately 100 member families from the surrounding area. No pesticides are used in growing organic vegetables and the whole campus has adopted a pesticide policy that eliminates the use of most pesticides and targets specific pests only when there is no management alternative. Eliminating noxious weeds, reforesting meadow areas with native trees, and reclaiming lawn into meadow result in shelter and food for wildlife. Walking trails through the woods and meadow areas give retreatants at the Franciscan Spiitual Center and hermitages contact with a vibrant and beautiful ecosystem. Related initiatves include recycling and composting. Each year, more than five tons of kitchen waste from Our Lady of Angels Convent becomes compost to enrich the soil at Red Hill Farm. Aluminum cans are recycled at a nearby center in Chester, Pennsylvania. Paper, plastics, cans, bateries, furniture, motor oil, and light bulbs are also recycled. Recycling obsolete electronics remains an ongoing challenge.
The Franciscian Center for Earth Education provides a venue for experiential ecological education within a Catholic Franciscan context. The Center's programs for sisters, students, and members of the local community are geared toward awakening participants to the natural world through participatory educational and spiritual activities.
|Geographic Location||United States of America
(Anston Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania)
|Duration of Project||1997–Present|
From the 1870s until 1951, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia sustained themselves on a farm that had dairy cows, pigs, an apple orchard, and various vegetable gardens. After the barn and cows were destroyed by an arson fire, farming was gradually phased out. In the 1990’s the Sisters made a decision to protect the land entrusted to their care and established an environmental task force in 1997 to carry out the Franciscan ideal of communing with the natural world. The Sisters crafted an environmental mission statement, devised guiding principles for action, and formed subcommittees for pursuing the Congregation’s aims in the areas of education, land use, and sustainable living. The environmental task force planned a series of ecological stewardship initiatives, including woodland preservation, wildlife and watershed protection, native flora restoration, energy conservation strategies, and recycling. A farmer joined the staff in 2000 and the CSA opened for membership the following year. Currently under construction in a wooded area near the farm, the contemplation hermitages are expected to open in the spring of 2004.
|Mission Statement||Environmental Mission Statement
“Based on our Franciscan worldview, we believe that Jesus Christ came as brother to all created reality, and as Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia we acknowledge our oneness with the universe. We call ourselves to proclaim in a viable and tangible manner our belief in the Cosmic Christ. Therefore, we commit ourselves: to reverence all that exists; to preserve the integrity of the land entrusted to our care; to dialogue and explore with others the implications of eco-spirituality; to promote positive environmental behaviors; and to celebrate our oneness with the universe.”
|Partner Organizations||None Listed
|Long-Term Goals||None Listed|
|Additional Research Resources||None Listed|
|Contact Information||Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia
Corinne Wright, OSF
Manager of Environmental Initiatives
609 S. Convent Road
Aston, PA 19014