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A little bit of Texas at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods

Elaine Haby, center, completes her internship at White Violet Center today. She is pictured with Tracy Wilson and David Illyes.

Even though there aren’t as many Sisters of Providence educating in the classroom as previous decades, the sisters provide an exceptional outdoor classroom where interns are immersed in learning about sustainable agriculture at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.

Today, Elaine Haby, of Hondo, Texas, completes her three-month internship at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence.

She grew up on horseback and works on her family’s Texas ranch raising beef cattle, sheep, and goats and crops like corn, sorghum, cotton, wheat, oats, and coastal hay. She had to come to Indiana to get to know alpacas, though.

“Before I came here I had never touched or seen an alpaca,” she said Monday. “I’ve learned a lot about the alpacas.”

She also spent time planting and harvesting vegetables in White Violet Center’s 7-acre USDA certified organic garden. The staff plants cover crops for a variety of reasons — adding nutrients to the soil and attracting beneficial insects and pollinators.

White Violet Center intern Elaine Haby demonstrates how a traditional halter fits Providence Elise, one of the Sisters of Providence alpacas.

“I learned more about the different cover crops,” she said. “Something that looks like a weed might be there for a reason.”

I believe there is also a reason Elaine wound up at this ministry for the summer, too.

It was in the first week of her internship back in May when she got an idea for her individual project while learning how to halter train the younger alpacas.

While working with Tracy Wilson, a Providence Associate and owner of Aris Farm Alpacas, Elaine learned there isn’t a halter made specifically for alpacas.

“The traditional halter has a nose piece that slips and the side pieces cover their eyes sometimes,” Elaine said Monday while presenting her final project. “I started practicing with baling twine, then braided one with adjustable pieces.”

There is a lot more to it, but Elaine is now on her way to having a prototype of an alpaca halter she would like to patent someday.

Not only is she hoping to create something useful for the alpaca industry, she spent many hours assisting Sister Joni Luna, who is also from Texas, coach volleyball to 5th-, 6th-, and 7th-graders.

Elaine, as all interns, has contributed much to the community of the Sisters of Providence this summer. Thank you for choosing to spend the summer with the Sisters of Providence, Elaine!  May Providence follow you back to the ranch and beyond.

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Cheryl Casselman

Cheryl Casselman has been a marketing manager for the Sisters of Providence since 1997. She grew up in Camby, Indiana, and now lives in Sullivan County, Indiana. She has a bachelor's degree in communications from Indiana State University.

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