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A spirituality of hope and healing

Joan Estelle Scully, now Sister Estelle, visits the herd of cattle at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1946.

For nearly 168 years the Sisters of Providence have called approximately 1,200 acres of land, trees and lakes in west central Indiana home. The face of the land has changed over time, from the predominantly woodland area in the time of the foundress, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, to the beautiful campus of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and the motherhouse of the Sisters of Providence. Nearly 400 acres are now Indiana certified organic cropland. A garden to provide organic food locally for both the Sisters of Providence and the weekly farmers’ market and a herd of alpacas take the place of the dairy cattle and chickens of the early years.

White Violet Center for Eco-Justice (WVC), a ministry of the Sisters of Providence, is working to restore the health and diversity of this piece of the Wabash River bioregion, the land and wildlife, lakes and wetlands, and the vitality and spirit of all who live in the area.

The mandate of WVC to work for eco-justice goes far beyond the boundaries of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. True to its Providence charism of hope and healing, the center arose out of the call of Sisters of Providence from the 1991 General Chapter to live justly and harmoniously with Earth, recognizing our interdependence with all creation.

Building on this commitment, the International Assembly of 1993 moved to establish Saint Mary-of-the-Woods as an eco-justice center and called Sisters of Providence, wherever they may be, to view themselves as central to this ministry. A planning committee established initial goals during 1994 and 1995 and a director was hired in 1995. The greenhouse was refurbished — part of it designed as an office site. The center later moved to a larger facility, the former laundry, to house increasing staff and education programs, retreats and workshops.

Now in its 13th year of ministry, the WVC staff members continue to provide education for just, sustainable living, and to promote a spirituality of hope and healing. Programs are varied with education the focus of all.

The alpaca herd, White Violet Farm Alpacas, has grown from only three in 1998 to currently more than 50. The sale and breeding of the highest quality animals is the current goal of this program. These environmentally friendly animals not only help to put back what we take out of the soil, but also provide for a small in-house fiber industry involving women and men learning new skills, such as spinning, weaving, felting and knitting. The handmade scarves, hats and other items provide income for the program. The alpacas also provide compost for the organic vegetable garden and orchards.

The gardening staff is augmented in the summer with the addition of interns and volunteers who come to WVC hoping to learn about organic and biodynamic gardening and the mission of eco-justice. A farmers’ market at WVC on Wednesdays and the Terre Haute Farmers’ Market on Saturdays help provide the opportunity for people to purchase locally grown organic/biodynamic produce. Bees from several hives help with pollinating crops and produce honey that they share with all of us. Educational programs and programs in spirituality emphasize a worldview expanded to include the growing evidence from science which sees the interconnection and interdependence of all life and demands that we live within limits in order to honor and preserve the bountiful Creation.

This way of living provides for a just, sustainable life for all beings on the planet and moves us toward a spirituality of hope and healing.

A week-long “Earth Plunge” program each year provides an intensive look at the critical issues of eco-justice and informs us of changes all can make to live more sustainably. The full-time environmental education specialist provides organized tours and educational programs for area schools and local community groups.

A straw bale hermitage, completed in 1999, provides a space for people to reconnect with nature while providing education on sustainable construction, as well. Recently, two small retreat houses, built using recycled materials, offer more sustainable housing for visitors and Sisters of Providence making retreats.

The WVC staff is active in influencing public policy around areas of environmental concern, global economy, land use and just treatment for all people and inhabitants of Earth.

Everyone is welcome to visit WVC. For more information go to www.WhiteViolet.org or call 812-535-2930.

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Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are a congregation of Roman Catholic women religious (sisters) who minister throughout the United States and Taiwan. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence in 1840. The congregation has a mission of being God's Providence in the world by committing to performing works of love, mercy and justice in service among God's people.

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