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White Violet Center for EcoJustice

Abstract Part of the Motherhouse complex of the Sisters of Providence and one of the Congregation’s newest ministries, the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice (WVC) promotes sustainability through a wide-range of projects, including ecosystem restoration, organic and community supported agriculture, spirituality, political advocacy, and environmental education. WVC models sustainable agriculture through its organic orchards and croplands, which are maintained by an integrated pest management system. These lands also supply produce for the congregation’s dining service and Community Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) program. The staff tends a wild bee population, an alpaca herd, and a large compost pile. Animals return important nutrients to the soil and the WVC chose alpacas for two reasons: because they are gentle on the land and because their fleece can provide income and work through spinning and weaving. In addition to its agricultural projects, the Center practices ecological stewardship through the restoration of wetland, forest, lake, and prairie ecosystems on the 1,200 acre campus. In the spirit of healing, WVC collaborates with the Nest Box Network at Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology to host twenty-five bluebird houses built by cancer survivors. Carrying on the congregation’s teaching mission, the Center offers various environmental education programs for children, college students, and adults as well as longer-term internships. In addition to its own educational programs, WVC participates in the Master of Arts in Earth Literacy Program at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, which shares the campus with the Sisters of Providence. The Center carries out its commitment to eco-justice through advocacy efforts, supporting political campaigns, working with legislators and lobbyists, raising consciousness about sustainability issues, and running an email action alert program. The practical, hands-on projects at WVC grow out of a spirituality of hope and healing that is based on the theological concept of divine Providence. With its lakes, woods, fields, walking trails, reflection garden, and straw-bale retreat house, the Center provides many opportunities for spiritual connection and rejuvenation through nature.
Religion Christianity
(Roman Catholic)
Geographic Location United States of America
(Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana)
Duration of Project 1996–Present

Since their arrival from France in 1840, the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods provided much of their own food, water, and coal on their 1,200 acres of land. With the industrialization of agriculture following World War II, the congregation sold its livestock, bulldozed its orchards, and leased its fields to farmers who used “conventional” means (chemicals, heavy machinery, and mono-cropping) to increase yields. The White Violet Center rose out of one woman’s persistent vision and the congregation’s commitment in 1991 to be “stewards of Earth’s Common Fund.” In 1992, Sister Ann Sullivan, Founder and Director of WVC, wrote a proposal encouraging the congregation to become a better steward of its land and resources. At the 1993 International Assembly of the Sisters of Providence, the idea of establishing an eco-justice center was endorsed. Immediately, a planning group convened and plans for the new center began. Logging and agricultural chemical use was discontinued by 1995; the greenhouse shed was transformed into an office; and an organic gardener was hired. The Center officially opened in 1996, and within a year, the newsletter was born; orchards were replanted; the Bluebird trail was constructed; and the CSA program was established. In 1997, the Center received its first Golden Eagle Environmental Grant from Indiana Power and Light Company for wetlands restoration (it has received two more IPALCO grants since then). In 1998, the first alpacas arrived at the Center, initiating a project made possible by a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant to put environmentally sound animals on the land. 1998 also saw the construction of a straw-bale retreat house and the first Master of Arts in Earth Literacy class at the college. In 2000, the administration and education offices were moved into another building across from the greenhouse and farm offices, providing more space for the Center’s many activities and enabling its eco-justice ministry to continue to grow.

Mission Statement “White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, a Ministry of the Sisters of Providence, exists to foster a way of living that recognizes the interdependence of all creation. Grounded in an understanding of Providence Spirituality as hope and healing, the Center offers leadership and education in the preservation, restoration, and reverent use of all natural resources. The Center provides opportunities for many persons to participate in creating systems that support justice and sustainability, locally and globally. Through organic agriculture, eco-justice education and social advocacy, White Violet Center for Eco-Justice strives to promote an awareness and a way of living which supports all life.”
Partner Organizations Department of Natural Resources
Global Education Associates
Indiana Environmental Council
National Catholic Rural Life Conference
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
Sierra Club
Sisters of Earth
Women of Providence in Collaboration
Local public schools and libraries
Long-Term Goals None Listed
Bibliography None Listed
Additional Research Resources None Listed
Contact Information

White Violet Center for Eco-Justice
1 Sisters of Providence
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN 47876–1089
Ph:       812.535.3131, ext. 525
email:  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Master of Arts in Earth Literacy Program
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN 47876–1089
Ph:       812.535.5160
Fax:      812.535.4613
email:  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)