Nothing new about 'sustainability' in religious life

Sister Marianne Garrity is pictured in her community's sheep pen and wind turbine, two resources that help the Trappistine Sisters of Mount St. Mary's Abbey in Wrentham be self-sustaining. Pilot photo/Christopher S. Pineo

WRENTHAM -- Pope Francis broke ground with his encyclical on the environment "Laudato Si'" in May, but the tradition of sustainable and even "green" living has deep roots in the life of the Catholic Church as evidenced by a local community of Trappistine nuns.

The Trappistine Sisters of Mount St. Mary's Abbey built a reputation around the candy produced to sustain their community in Wrentham through sales, but the community takes the core of its way of life from a tradition that dates back to their medieval roots and reflects in their formal name, the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance.

Sister Marianne Garrity gave The Pilot a tour of the grounds of the abbey, July 18, which featured the renewable and sustainable resources that the community uses.

The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance have their roots in France in 1098, when St. Robert of Molesme set into an uninhabited part of the French countryside that would come to be called Citeaux. The 21 monks who accompanied the saint helped found Citeaux Abbey and took up a life of strict commitment to a form of traditional monasticism called the Rule of St. Benedict. The order established the first abbey of Cistercian Nuns, who committed themselves to the monastic life of the Rule. Chapter 66 of the Rule dictates that communities become self-sustaining apart from the outside world.

Founded in 1949, the abbey in Wrentham developed into a self-sustaining community through work of the hands of the sisters living there -- another element specified in the Rule.

"It was the first foundation of Cistercian women in the United States," Sister Marianne said.

The land functioned as an agricultural resource and over time new resources became available to make the community more self-sustaining and sustainable through renewable energy and natural resources.

At one time the abbey had cows on site, but the required milking created a conflict with the prayer life of those in the monastery. The abbey sold the cows and purchased sheep instead. The sheep's wool, a renewable resource because it grows back seasonally, can be used to make yarn sold at the gift shop.

The women who had milked the cows in the '50s noted that the high point of the local area, a hill where the sheep live now, experienced a great deal of wind. They thought of building a wind turbine.

The project would materialize in 2005 after Mother Agnes Day, abbess at the time, returned from a visit to Portsmouth Abbey. She asked Sister Marianne to investigate the addition of a wind turbine to the hill. After a feasibility study funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative the abbey moved forward with the project.

The wind turbine was commissioned in 2009 and has produced about a third of the power for the community since.

"All of its parts are made in the United States. The rotor and the nacelle -- which is the housing behind where the blades are -- is where all the gizmos are that make it work. The wind energy is mechanical energy at the top. It's converted into electrical energy. It comes down the tower. The electric lines are right underneath us," Sister Marianne said.

Some of the energy contributes to the grid for which the abbey gains a credit.

With the construction of solar fields in 2013 and 2014, the abbey added another resource to help sustain the community, but the energy generated by the solar panels didn't go to the abbey itself. Instead the Town of Franklin purchased a long-term supply of energy from the abbey with some of the power going to the grid. Renewable energy project developer, Kearsarge Energy LLC of Watertown, leased the land until 2033, which now generates revenue for the abbey.

"With that income on which we can rely we can do some projects that we have not been able to do before. For instance, this summer we are replacing a lot of the original 1940s and '50s doors and windows, which were just very energy inefficient," she said.

The candy production itself also has a sustainable component in a geothermal system that heats and cools the on-site chocolate factory built in 2011.

But, while environmentally conscious, the motivation to install the geothermal system went beyond temporal concerns.

"We just didn't want heating and air conditioning units just like McDonald's on the top of our new candy building and also because silence, and the silent atmosphere is important to us. And that sense of solitude, that would be destroyed," she said.

Chapters of the Rule pay particular attention to that sense of solitude and silence during meal times in the monastic life. Whereas Chapter 38 of the Rule dictates reading aloud during meals instead of talking, the nuns added "Laudato Si'" to be read evening-by-evening in the coming months.

Sister Marianne said the encyclical held particular appeal to the nuns of the abbey.

"I think the thing that we like very much is that the sustainability goes hand in hand with the spirituality," Sister Marianne said.

She said that combination happens in the daily prayer life of the nuns and the sustainability of the abbey.

"We gather in church seven times a day, and we pray and we bless the Lord of Creation, and we can see that the efforts at sustainability also Bless the Lord in a different way," she said.

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...