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Feature Articles

‘Waking Up the World’ at EarthConnection
By Josh Zeller, Communications student intern


Last month, one of the many successful Days of Mission and Service events held during this Year of Consecrated Life was hosted at EarthConnection. “S. Winnie [Brubach] gave volunteers an overview of what EarthConnection is all about, and how the Sisters of Charity have been involved with this building since 1991. She does an excellent tour of how sustainable this building is. It was actually built from an old four-car garage that belonged to the Sisters,” said S. Caroljean Willie who, along with S. Winnie, helped to coordinate the service event.

Currently, EarthConnection is bursting with a summery green and all the other colors of the rainbow; there is an impressive array of prairie wildflowers, and also various fruits and vegetables.

“[The volunteers] walked away with an understanding of our produce that we raise here, and where it goes. That was all part of why we had them work in the garden, to help us get the beds ready to plant, so that when we harvested we had good vegetables. This year the produce goes to the Good Samaritan Free Health Center in Price Hill,” S. Winnie related. The facility not only cleans and packages the vegetables, but also puts together recipes before shipping them off to clients.

There was quite a diverse group of volunteers, which included students and staff from Mount St. Joseph University including interim President Joel Thierstein, staff members from St. Joseph Orphanage, Sisters and Associates, and even a youth group from a Protestant church located on the East Side of Cincinnati. That the group was so diverse is critical to the goals of the service day; it was an opportunity for friendship, and to “learn how we integrate with one another, complement one another, and empathize with one another” (USCCB).

“For some people who came,” S. Caroljean said, “this was kind of an introduction for them into gardening.”

S. Winnie added, “For a few people, it was their introduction to the Sisters of Charity.”

This was an essential introduction, as these service events are meant to answer Pope Francis’ call to “Wake Up the World” by having religious women and men work alongside lay women and men; this helps to raise awareness of religious vocations and all that they accomplish. Of the Pope’s decree, S. Winnie said, “I think the ‘Waking Up the World’ piece of it is just introducing ourselves as Sisters and working alongside the folks, letting them know we are who we are, and that we’re human like they are.”

“When I came here in February,” said S. Caroljean, referring to her transition as the SC Federation Non-Governmental Organization representative at the United Nations to EarthConnection, “one of my goals was to work with S. Winnie to begin to look at how we might offer programming. So I think one of the other ways we’re hoping to wake up the world is to provide programming, in addition to introducing ourselves to people. Like, lately we’ve been facilitating a program on the encyclical [a letter published recently by Pope Francis, concerning the environment], and opening that up to people. We want to help people understand the connection between their faith and our stewardship, our care for creation.”

S. Caroljean terms this connection eco-spirituality; care for creation, an essential component of the Sisters of Charity mission, is seen throughout the EarthConnection facility. There is a masterful balance between the various types of plants, in a way that complies with the demands of nature. For example, there is the heavy Eight-Ball Squash (which S. Caroljean says are more like “cannonballs”), as well as weeds like Bloody Nut Sedge, the green blades that stick up in between the squash. S. Winnie explains that the sedge is better left alone.

“Every time you pull it, you plant 10, so Nut Sedge is the bane of our existence,” she said.

When visiting EarthConnection, one is always impressed by the wealth of knowledge that Sisters Winnie and Caroljean impart. And they are always looking for volunteers: “This wasn’t our first event for volunteers. We get students from Mount St. Joseph University, sometimes from high schools – Seton High School especially, and we’ve had volunteers from Elder High School,” S. Winnie said. “Some folks come back on a regular basis; other folks, it’s a one-time thing, and you meet up with them years later; it was a seminal-type experience for them.”