Sister Ruth Johnson: kinship with creation
At the age of 4, Sister Ruth Johnson’s family moved to the country. She thinks she was being prepared for her belief, understanding and connection with nature and ecology at that very young age.
“When I say country, I mean primitive,” Sister Ruth said. “Way in the back woods so far that we did not have electricity. We were really like homesteaders.”
Her family pumped water, heated their home and cooked their meals using wood, and utilized kerosene lamps and an outhouse.
“We really were down to the base of the earth with our living. In the summer, we had our own salad garden,” she said.
Sister Ruth, who recently celebrated 60 years as a Sister of Providence, knows she was developing a kindred spirit to all creation at an early age.
About Sister RuthSister Ruth Johnson (formerly Sister Joseph Maurice) was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education. She taught elementary and middle school from 1952 to 1986 in Indiana, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and New Hampshire. Sister Ruth currently ministers as a fiber artist and volunteer at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Sister Ruth occasionally goes back to draw on that young exposure to connect with what she knows now.
“Now it has a whole other meaning for me,” she said. “I realize how close we are to the universe and how close it is to us. We’re of the whole substance and essence that the universe contains. We contain the very same things. And we’ve lost that kinship for many, many years. I think that it’s only now, that we’re making Earth cry for itself, that we realize what we’ve done in putting it down and really stepping on it so that it ceases really living the way it should.
“Because of my early experiences, I’ve always felt that when I am either by a tree, in a garden, or in the woods, if I stand still I’m enclosed by all that. It’s almost like, invisibly, those things are reaching out to touch me as I touch them. I’ve got a very strong kinship with a tree that’s dying. I can rub my hands on the bark and thank it for being around for as long as it has. If you listen carefully, they will respond to you, not in words, but in signs and energy.”
When the Sisters of Providence decided to make ecological justice a priority during the early 1990s and opened White Violet Center for Eco-Justice at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1996, Sister Ruth was a supporter from the beginning.
“I was very excited that we were going to do something with our land,” she said. “Not that we were going to start it. Mother Theodore already did that. She brought a whole love of the universe with her when she brought plants and trees from France. I think now we’re coming full cycle by coming back to that love of the land — living from the land. Showing others how to raise their own food, how to eat in a healthy style.”
But there is much work to do.
“We humans have lost our connection and that’s what we’re trying to look for now,” she said. “And I hope it happens before it’s too late to bring salvation to the soil and the planet. We have forced the planet to supply all our needs and given nothing in return – thus alienating our very life source and now the earth cries out in pain. How can we abandon the cry? We have to convert our energy into positive output to exuding kindness, kinship and a gathering in life — creating new breathing space — a new tomorrow.”
(This article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of HOPE magazine.)