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Loretto Earth Network News SISTERS OF EARTH Autumn 2012

Vol. 20, No. 4

Food Sovereignty, Rural Women, and the Power of the Kitchen By Maxine Pohlman SSND As an activist and Mennonite, Nettie was moved years ago to cofound a way to resist globalization. Via Campesina is a movement of peasant and small scale farmers in 120 countries with over 200 million members committed to protecting cultures, land, and a way of being. The fact that there is huge disrespect for those who have lived and farmed long in one place with local agricultural knowledge can be observed in the derogatory way many people use the word “peasant.” Nettie proudly refers to herself as a peasant, one who is of the land.

“I am a Mennonite, agrarian feminist, parent, eater, gardener in a hostile environment, cook, and activist.” With these words, Nettie Wiebe introduced herself to the 2012 Sisters of Earth Conference on July 13, and with these words, she had my whole-hearted attention! Speaking with integrity as a farmer, Nettie revealed the world from the perspective of food and what happens to it. “It’s all about food because everyone eats. Food connects us. It is also a wonderful, powerful, political thing. It is our sustenance, our livelihood.” I have long shared the belief that food is key to the devastation, as well as, the healing of our rare and precious planet. As a member of the Community Supported Garden at La Vista in Godfrey, Illinois, for eight years, I have appreciated being connected to a local, alternative food system. Nettie’s words reinforced that commitment. I believe this was also true for so many of the Sisters of Earth who are deeply committed to the local food movement. Nettie is also a professor of environmental ethics at St. Andrew’s College in Saskatchewan. As an introductory assignment in one of her courses, Nettie directs students to choose a favorite food and learn everything they can about it, such as where it comes from and how far it has travelled to their table. She sees in some students’ reactions that they think this assignment is

Nettie Wiebe simplistic. With a smirk, one student said, “I’m going to do chocolate chip cookies.” Nettie encouraged him. After one week the student returned to her, confessing that he couldn’t possibly do the whole cookie. He asked if he could just do a chocolate chip! Quickly students are led into the complexity of our food system which is “dis-integrating” – separating ingredients, shipping them miles to be processed, only to return to their source to be put back together again. As they do their research, students also discover the fact of “proprietary knowledge,” learning that they cannot find out much about grocery store food, since corporations protect information about their ingredients. The lesson learned is that we are truly part of a major, globalized food system that we know very little about. This is not good news.

Since 1996 Nettie has pushed against globalized food trade and promoted local food production and protection. “It is a political conversation. The new paradigm is food sovereignty which protects local food production by those who have done this for thousands of years.” She reminded us that this paradigm is about people’s food sovereignty, not about corporate food sovereignty. It is about treating food and people and land with love and respect to achieve security. You can visit viacampesina. org to learn more about food sovereignty. Being in the presence of Nettie Wiebe is a powerful reminder of the place of women in re-imaging the human relationship to food. Nettie believes that intuitively women have a special relationship to food and the food web that makes us effective Continued on page 2


feel certain that one of our early Earth saints, Teilhard de Chardin, would be open to a bit of paraphrasing now that it is 2012. This special issue is dedicated to two Loretto founders, Mary Rhodes and Mary Rhodes Buckler. The former Mary Rhodes first set eyes on the rolling Kentucky knobs and wild grasses when her family migrated from Maryland. The latter Mary Rhodes Buckler was born close to Loretto Motherhouse and chose her religious name to commemorate one of the women who set as their mission to the world, the education of young children. Mary Rhodes Buckler has a unique place in the Earth Network history as a woman who was among the founders of the Earth Network, 21 years ago. I am sure you will recognize Teilhard in the words below: How right you are. The day has come when technology has evolved and thinks it is harnessing space. We visualize the winds, the tides, and gravitation. Can we now grab for God the energies of love? And then can we again discover fire? I cannot think of Mary Rhodes Buckler without two phrases popping into my head: Evolutionary Consciousness and Planetary Sustainability. I know they are pretty pompous phrases but Mary Rhodes Buckler was an English literature major and

A Tribute By Mary Ann Coyle SL through the years taught English to High School students in Kentucky and Denver for 50 years, served as communications director at the former Loretto Heights College, was academic dean of Webster College for six years and set so many students on fire with her loving ways of relating personally to each and every one. Rhodie, as she was affectionately called, died at Loretto Motherhouse in Nerinx, KY at the age of 93 and in her 64th year as a Sister of Loretto. The description I would put forth for Rhodie would be as follows: advocate for equal rights and the environment, Louisville library gatekeeper to encourage the purchase of books related to the environment, avid reader, and thinker about the future of planet Earth. Rhodie actually retired to the Loretto Motherhouse in 2006 and moved to the infirmary in 2007. One could spot her often sitting in the hallway on the second floor and recognize her famous smile and white hair from a mile away. Two of her special friends and visitors at Loretto Motherhouse were Diarmuid O’Murchu and Brian Swimme. Diarmuid would spend time in Rhodie’s room simply being present with her and she with him. I am pleased to quote from the letter Brian wrote to the Earth Network. “Rhodie

Mary Rhodes Buckler SL and Brian Swimme was one of my all time favorites. I bet a lot of people feel the same. She was a spiritual home base. I felt so completely at home with her for a variety of reasons; we had such similar hopes and dreams. I have lived off the energies of those rare moments when everything comes together in such exciting ways.” My gratitude to the Sisters of Earth members who shared their written reflections in this issue. There are many names you will recognize: Martha Alderson CoL, Paula Gonzales SC, Marya Grathwohl OSF, Maureen McCormack SL, Maxine Pohlman SSND, Sharon Zayac OP, Karen Cassidy CoL, and Margaret Swedish. Brian Swimme ended his message to us and I end my notes to you echoing his final thought: May we be inspired by Rhodie the rest of our lives and send the energies into the future as powerfully as she handed them down to us.”

Food Sovereignty

“We are all part of Mother Earth, an indivisible, living community of interrelated and interdependent beings with a common destiny.” From the preamble to the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

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agents for change. She reminded us that the kitchen has often been a site of exploitation and oppression for women. And she challenges us to imagine: What if the kitchen is the next site of empowerment for us? “Women, as bearers of food culture, are in an ideal place where that re-conceiving can take a practical foothold.” As we shop and cook food we can resist efforts to make food a product to market and relate to food as a source of nutrition. Food is relational, as we know from our family gatherings, whether it is Thanksgiving, or a wedding. She invited us not to underestimate where we have places of intervention. Providing food is a key way we can contribute to making big changes.

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LENN Autumn 2012

Inner Transitions By Sharon Zayac OP


eep transitions are just that and therefore really hard to articulate. They are often so gradual you don’t realize that you are in them until one day you realize you now think very differently about something you thought you had a firm opinion about. And when you try to make distinctions between inner and outer transitions, it gets even harder. Is an inner transition only my own personal evolution in what I think or feel or how I behave? Isn’t the inner transition in my own local community also mine because the sisters I live with, together with me, make me who and what I am and who and what we are? Isn’t the inner transition occurring within my congregation also my own transition? Or the transition in the greater Springfield, Illinois area with whom we at Jubilee Farm have been involved? Or the one within church? Since we live in a quantum Universe I know that I am not only transitioning as others evolve but that others are transitioning because of what is happening within me. What I am becoming, all that I am learning and understanding and processing, is effecting the transition of the whole. There is no outer that is not inner. There is no other that is separate and apart from me. We are all part of the one whole, making up the one whole, making the whole what it is at any given moment. How then can I distinguish between what is happening in any other area as being distinct from each other or distinct from what is happening within me? They are all my inner transitions. I used to believe with Gandhi that we must be the change we seek for the world. Then I transitioned

living the Story, my own transitioning, helped to transition my congregation into embracing that imperative. How do we bring our gifts into deeper dialogue with society to show another way is possible? How do we invite the world into a process of deep transition?

into believing that I am the change I wish for the world. Now I see that whatever new I am always transitioning into has already changed the world. I find that so hopeful, so life-giving, especially as more and more people desire and live into a new consciousness of the whole. I remember once being asked what impact Jubilee Farm has had on my congregation. I was able to see that in ten short years my sisters moved from skepticism about the ministry, and in some cases derision and even anger at wasted “financial and human resources,” to unanimously embracing in our 2009 General Chapter the imperative to recognize all creation as revelatory of God and to commit to study the science, theology, and spirituality of the Universe Story. Did Jubilee Farm convince them? Did I convince them? No, not necessarily. And yes, necessarily. Though it is not just about me but about all of us at Jubilee Farm and about all of the greater us who live out of the Story, I know that my own deepening understanding of who we are in relation to the whole, my passion to share the Story and the implications of

There are as many ways to bring our gifts into deeper dialogue as there are gifts to offer. We have been in ministry at Jubilee Farm for 12 years. In all that time we quietly do what we think is best, graciously refuse assistance that comes out of the old story, make mistakes, sometimes compromise, speak and teach and share reflections on sustainability and cosmology, tour visitors and answer the same questions over and over and over … and now folks in our area, my sisters in community, are asking the questions that will move their understanding to deeper levels. I know this method of dialogue flies in the face of the urgency which embroils us (apt metaphor), and it requires more patience than most of us have, but it is indicative of the evolutionary process as a whole. Some changes happen slowly, though ten years on the evolutionary scale can hardly be considered slow. But once the groundwork has been laid, evolution, as Barbara Marx Hubbard tells us, takes quantum leaps. I believe we are at that taking off point for that massive leap in consciousness. The current chaos we are in proves that we are on the edge of the next great quantum leap. What do we have to offer then? Everything. No matter what approach we take, and they will all be uniquely our own, no matter what we think, or desire, or do, we are the change for the world. Because of us the world is already changed.

LENN Autumn 2012 Page 3

Prisoners in California and New York Crowd Cosmology Classes By Marya Grathwohl, OSF


magine being defined by the worst thing you’ve ever done. Imagine being isolated from those you love and who care about you. Imagine daily life characterized by violence, chaos and hopelessness. Now, imagine being invited to participate in a class that offers you a different self-perspective and sense of community. Welcome to the Earth Hope Cosmology Course designed for use in jails! In this three-month GED-eligible course, prisoners voluntarily gather in a safe setting where they learn about the evolution of the Universe from its birth in a flaring forth of energy to the emergence of stars, galaxies, Earth, life, extinctions, regeneration, and the magnificent web of life that holds all of humanity, including each of them. Essential for our cosmology students, they experience their inherent connection with the human community. They gain new insights into how they can participate in beneficial, nonviolent ways. Through guided imagery, music, Universe DVDs, scientific study, conversation, and art, participants are released from the chains of destructive self images and motivated to fulfill their potential for positive change, personally and for their families.

The Earth Hope Cosmology Education Program, designed by Sister Marya Grathwohl, OSF and volunteer educator, Ms. Cece Gannon, collaborates with others: the CND’s of Wilton, Connecticut, dedicated volunteers who teach the program, and prison education personnel. It helps transform the lives of people in prison and has the potential to impact positively the communities prisoners return to upon release, as well as society as a whole. It impacts our Universe by teaching its sacred Story for healing, empowerment, and enjoyment. It fulfills the prophetic Marya and Mary Nerney CND message of Jesus by liberating those held captive by hopelessness. It promotes peace through classes that help build right relationships among people desperate for alternatives to anger, fear, and unjust systems. When asked why he attends the Cosmology Class a student said, “When I’m in this class I forget I’m locked-up.” A woman in Rikers Island Jail, New York City said, “It gives me the understanding as a human that there’s hope for me.” And another wrote, “This class is peaceful, inspiring, and fun.” A guard asked to sit in on a class because “I notice positive change in the guys who come here and I wanted to see what it was all about.” Cece Gannon, S. Mary Nerney CND, educator and long-time jail volunteer, and I have developed and taught a one-day teacher training session for the program in the Billings, Montana area. We are currently accepting invitations to share this program with other jail and prison volunteers. Two small grants enable us to travel to training sites and provide the materials needed to teach the course. Now, imagine yourself gently releasing the creative potential of the Universe Story for prisoners and other locked-up persons.

Loretto Earth Network News

A publication of the Loretto Community

Editor: Mary Ann Coyle SL 3126 S Osceola Street Denver, CO 80236-2332


Layout: Nancy Wittwer SL

Marya teaching in a California prison

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LENN Autumn 2012

The Change that Changes Everything By Maureen McCormack SL


hen the Loretto Earth Network came into being 21 years ago, we felt that we were beginning to engage with Earth and the cosmos in new ways – and we were. But now, two decades later, that all seems very preliminary. It’s time to engage with Earth and the cosmos in ways we couldn’t even imagine in 1991. In our initial Earth Network Vision Statement, we spoke of being transformed as we participate in the healing and transformation of the total Earth community. Did we really know what these things would require of us? Do we know today? Carlos Barrios, a Mayan elder, says that the world will be transformed in December 2012. Humanity will continue but in a different way. What the Mayans call the World of the Fifth Sun will be marked by openheartedness, unity and spiritual energy. Are these some of the qualities we are reaching for as we move toward transformation? Some observers say the alignment with the heart of the galaxy in 2012 will open a channel for cosmic energy to flow through Earth, cleansing it and all that dwell upon it, raising all to a higher level. We didn’t always know that creation is continuing to evolve, to be transformed. We know it now and know that we have a role to play. We have talked in the past, perhaps rather glibly, about humans collaborating in the ongoing creation of Earth. However, I don’t think we have yet grasped the full import of what this means. Brian Swimme urged us to recognize “the transformative change required of us in order to be conscious co-creators.” Andrew Cohen, the founder of EnlightenNext magazine, says that the most significant part of the evolutionary impulse in humans to

This great energy, this great intelligence is waiting for us to be available to it. And if we are willing and ready to allow ourselves to be used in this way, often what happens is that the way our daily lives look begins to change quite a bit. What do we have to let go of and commit to in order to live from the place of participating in creating the future?

create is a spiritual impulse. He finds this very interesting, especially for those, including himself, who were brought up in a secular culture with a materialistic worldview. Some people feel this compulsion with great intensity; for others, it’s a quiet whisper. But what is so fascinating and so affirming of life and of spirit is that we begin to recognize that this is the same pulsation that initiated the creative process in the first place, now compelling us to awaken so that the process can evolve through us. When we do awaken to that energy, suddenly it becomes apparent to us that the reason we’re here in this world at this time is for the biggest purpose there is, which is to create the universe and to create the future. Cohen says: God needs us urgently to become vehicles for that energy. We often think that we want something from God, but God wants everything from us. So, it is necessary for all of us to find ways to be here more profoundly and more passionately than ever before. This is not just to heal the world and all the pain and suffering that has been created by human ignorance, but to create the future. Once you experience urgency around this, you realize it’s not your urgency; it’s God’s urgency.

Allowing ourselves to feel into the interior of the impulse to create heaven on Earth, to step inside and connect with its immensity and boundless erergy seems different from and more engaged than marveling at the vastness and beauty of the cosmos, which is a way we used to express our relationship to the cosmos. I think of the possibilities that such an orientation to life could have for our communities and for all those with whom we are connected. I reflect on our recent Loretto retreat with its theme from a Joseph Campbell quote: “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.” Awakening to the transformative change required of us in order to create heaven on Earth may be “the life that is waiting for us.” It could be the change that changes everything. (If you would like a copy of the fourpage presentation on Inner Transitions delivered at the Sisters of Earth Conference on July 14, 2012, please email me at mfmccormack@comcast. net.)

Photos by:

Cathy Mueller SL and Martha Alderson CoL

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Walking the Spiritual Path of Civilization’s Collapse By Paula Gonzalez SC


pening her program on Inner Transition while drumming, Carolyn Baker immediately had us expecting a different kind of talk. The theme became apparent as she spoke of our being called to “midwife the birth that is struggling to be embodied through the great death that is erupting.” Humanity must accept that we are standing at a threshold perhaps unprecedented in human history and, thus, a critical moment of choice! In her book, Sacred Demise: Walking the Spiritual Path of Civilization’s Collapse, she urges us to “stop trying to resist or avoid the reality of our collapsing industrial civilization, which is rapidly unfolding and offers us an opportunity beyond mere survival.” This necessitates the transformation of human consciousness, resulting in the emergence of a new paradigm. Each of us will be led to discover our role in the collapse process, both individually and as a committed member of society. Confronted with the planetary scope of today’s realities many persons’ feelings run the gamut — fear, denial, anger, grief and despair. (An interesting insight Carolyn shared is that the word “emotion” has “motion” in it — an integrative energy field.) To overcome what could be a dangerous paralysis we are invited to turn our attention within to journal, meditate, commune with nature and to dialog with others who “are on the same page.” Many of these emotions can be a pathway to new life, to transformation and joy. Increasingly we recognize that we are called to be co-creators of a different world. This is the work of inner transition which will be needed to “navigate the coming chaos” — some of which many recognize as “already here.” The task before us is a profound spiritual challenge.

We need to prepare ourselves to deal with the great mega-crisis which is emerging as many of today’s serious planetary problems converge: energy depletion, climate change, environmental devastation, economic meltdown, social unrest, etc. Four stages of preparation are involved: 1. Cultivating an inner life, 2. Developing real “community” not only with other humans but with every part of the created universe, 3. Realizing that emotionally and spiritually we will face a traumatic future and 4. Maturing into “elder-hood” by realizing that we are “stewards of the culture.” As more and more persons reach this stage the “sacred wisdom” needed to go forward will grow. We are called to be reflective in a culture where it is difficult to live deeply and consciously, learning to embrace paradox. Baker reminds us that paradox is “natural” to indigenous peoples because their vision is not dualistic, so they do not insist on “clear answers” to every dilemma. Their relatedness to all aspects of the universe thus has an integral sacredness. For eons this has been expressed through using art, music, poetry and movement to create beauty. She reminds us that as elders we should be doing this at every moment for it is a “holy act.” Stages 2 and 3 can be very challenging, as resistance to change and denial are difficult to overcome. Here dialog is essential and real joy can result when folks look at the realities together with others who are “on the same page.” It is important to hold the tension of opposites — not being trapped either in extreme despair or pie-in-the-sky optimism. The key word is resilience! She likens this to the process of birth, with all its pain and “messiness.” Joy and aliveness result, so it is critical to live in hope through our commitment to what she calls acceptance and reinvestment. What options are there for you? for your community?

Carolyn Baker The Transition Movement, which originated in the UK in 2006, is cited as a phenomenon which is growing all around the planet. Concentrating on the connections between peak oil and climate change it became clear to growing numbers of people that life with less energy was inevitable. Thinking it better to plan than to be surprised, people are gathering in groups to simplify lifestyles through local food production, returning to more personal modes of communication, etc. As Carolyn Baker states they are beginning to create the next culture. The fourth principle of the movement states beautifully what this can mean: “By unleashing the collective genius of the community it is possible to design ways of living that are more enriching, satisfying and connected.” To be energized yourself as we move into the future why not find a “transition initiative” — or found one!

Carolyn and Paula

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LENN Autumn 2012

Reflection from a First-Time Sister of Earth By Martha Alderson CoL


was truly up for an adventure. All of a sudden I got an invitation to accompany the St. Louis Sisters of Earth delegation to their biennial conference this past July. It was a busy time at the office and my preparation time was minimal. In fact, I didn’t even take a tablet for taking notes. Because I didn’t take notes, the experience was more emotional than practical. I cannot recount the five points of this speaker, the new terminology from that speaker, the websites suggested from any number of speakers, which means I am not making a report full of exciting new content. Instead I am simply reflecting on the experience itself. As with other experiences that are more psychic than cognitive, the effects came to me gradually, as the days (really they were hours, but as with most conferences they seemed longer) marched along and I felt more at ease and more in tune.

This was a gathering of about 120 women of faith, committed to a new paradigm, to a new way of living in relationship with the Earth community. There were university professors, authors, entertainers, farmers, managers of various kinds of ecologically oriented places, and a few other wide-eyed newcomers. I don’t think I met anyone who wasn’t actively engaged in the good work of living the new cosmology. It boggles my mind as I think of the impact of such a group as their hands reach into other spheres of influence. The speakers were eminently approachable and interacted as participants. Everyone had a story to tell and a plea to make for a transition into a more sustainable lifestyle. Even through discouraging reports of corporate hijacking of efforts by grassroots citizens (UN Rio+ 20 report, for example), there came strong signs of hope and many stories of success. There was high good humor shown with laughter,

with dancing, with drumming, with song, with other ways of praying, with camaraderie. If a stranger were to come into the room with no knowledge whatsoever of the purpose of the group, s/he would presume wild optimism. A closer observation would reveal examples of grief, fear, and disappointment. When I became the one observing, I saw the effects persistence made and an everburgeoning evidence of hope. This was truly a gift for me—good companions, wonderful conversations, and lively expectations. P.S. I joined Sisters of Earth when I got home!

Given the needs of our world… •

How can Sisters of Earth best contribute from our wisdom and experience towards envisioning a new way of life for our cultures and society? How can we bring our gifts into a deeper dialogue with the society to show that another way of life is indeed possible?

Imagining these gifts as leaven in a world sorely in need of creative inspiration, how might we envision being this leaven?

How can we invite the world around us into this necessary process of deep transition? What do we have to offer? How would we like to offer it?

What does the SOE network and its members have to offer the world to help chart a path towards the necessary “deep transition?” How concretely might we envision that offering?

Margaret Swedish

LENN Autumn 2012

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Web Radio for the Web of Life By Karen Cassidy CoL


learned about two websites while attending the Sisters of Earth Conference this past July. At these two sites, and, you will find what I believe is the world’s largest collection of eco-music.

At the conference I talked with the project director of the first site. She is Traci Hickson, a young, energetic woman who describes herself as an environmental radio broadcaster. In 1998, she received a fellowship from the College of the Atlantic in Maine to study the role of community radio stations in advancing environmental and social change worldwide. She returned to her home in West Virginia in 1999. If you tune in you will hear music from well-known and independent musicians. One afternoon I listened to country, folk, rock, blues and reggae, most of the songs unknown to me. I had a hard time doing anything else because I wanted to hear all the lyrics! If you want to listen, go to, and click on “Listen and Share” on the top left box. It’s as easy as that. After you have listened a while, look at the rest of the website. The website contains a comprehensive listing of green songs, earth songs, and environmental audio material, including over 5,000 songs with environmental, indigenous, and empowerment lyrics. The music spans six decades and includes recording artists from all over the world and every genre. The website includes an eco-music database with nature songs, ocean songs, protest songs, energy songs, songs for Native American land rights, songs integrating social and environment justice, and songs for the web of life. MUSE (Musicians United to Sustain the Environment) set up these two web radio stations to recognize musicians that are singing about the diversity of life. MUSE is a 501(c)3 non-profit sponsor of Earthday Radio. As the website says, “Earth music unites us all in a celebration for the diversity of life.” It is a call to action, asking each of us to listen to Earth, live more simply, and join with others to protect our habitat, heal our communities, and the planet.

LORETTOS Cathy Mueller Nancy Wittwer Martha Alderson Maureen McCormack Karen Cassidy missing from picture

Musicians Jan Novotka and Joyce Rouse

Sisters of Green Mountain Monastery Gail Worcelo Amie Hendani Bernadette Bostwick

Maureen Freeman with alpacas at White Violet Center

Loretto Earth Network News - Autumn 2012  

Loretto Earth Network's quarterly newsletter. In this issue, food sovereignty, cosmology classes for prisoners, and dispatches from the 201...

Loretto Earth Network News - Autumn 2012  

Loretto Earth Network's quarterly newsletter. In this issue, food sovereignty, cosmology classes for prisoners, and dispatches from the 201...