By Mary Kaye Medinger, Consociate
Ten individuals from three provinces who feel called to live into relationship within the Carondelet congregation as agrégées met for our third annual retreat from June 21-23, 2019 at the St. Paul Provincial House. Three others joined us in spirit. The total group includes four individuals from the Albany province, one from the St. Louis province, and eight from the St. Paul province. The two previous retreats were faciliated by Sisters, and the 2019 retreat was facilitated by members of the group ourselves. At the invitation of the group, Jean Wincek, CSJ attended to share observations and reflections along the way. Susan Hames CSJ, a member of the St. Paul Province Leadership Team, also attended part of the weekend on behalf of the hosting province.
The days of reflection reminded us of the purpose of our coming together in our own words: “Just as six unique and most diverse women who felt called to serve came together in LePuy, we respond today in our individual calls of the Spirit to serve. It is an experiential time of a spacious grassroots call to community as Agrégées.” The times of prayer, reflection, song, storytelling, laughter, meals shared and memories made deepened the bonding begun in past years.
Friday evening began with Table Prayer composed by Michael Joncas and led by the Tacheny Family, members of the agrégée group. Parents Steven and Jennifer led the singing and children Delvin (12), Mason (11) and Nora (9) played their violins and sang. Alexandra Guliano accompanied on keyboard. Dinner was followed by Sharing the Heart facilitated by Jennifer and Lois Mineau.
Saturday was a full day and began with a “conversation in the manner of St. Joseph whose name we bear” led by Mary Craven and Nancy Koltko , reflecting on participants’ personal spiritual journeys in light of the Joseph story. Alexandra then led a reflection on Mother St. John in the years between the French Revolution and the refounding of the congregation. Both Joseph and Mother St. John trusted that they were being led by Spirit even when the road ahead was not always clear. So too for us!
Saturday afternoon included Mary Louise Menikheim leading a reflection on the “Sacred is the Call: Reflections on Agrégée” document we developed last year and how we have lived it in the past year, time for personal reflection and an opportunity for Sunday liturgy (anticipated). The evening brought interested St. Paul Sisters and Consociates (including Congregational Chapter delegates and companions) to join the agrégée group for a pizza supper and focused conversation. The evening ended with an agrégée group reflection on our time with our guests: What did we hear? What themes emerged? What might we bring forward?
Our closing session on Sunday morning began with Jean sharing observations and reflections on our time together, our insights, and possible next steps. We ended with a shared conviction that the gift is here, the need is here, the dream is here, the time is here as we move forward step by step. Stay tuned!
As part of the U.S. Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph, we echo their call for action to end gun violence.
As Sisters of St. Joseph, we share in the communal heartbreak of our nation in the face of unthinkable violence. The recent mass shootings in our country impel us to once again demand that all citizens and elected leaders end the rage and division that all too often results in mass, indiscriminate violence. We seem unable to stop the epidemic of hate that has overwhelmed us. ¶What we are witnessing today is a terrorism that uses mass public communication against a particular individual or group. This incites acts of terrorism that happen seemingly at random. We are called to confront rhetoric that stokes racism and hatred of anyone perceived to be “different.” We are all responsible. Let us monitor our own language and actions and call attention when the language and actions of others cross the line. ¶While mass shootings capture our attention, we cannot forget that they are only part of the violence perpetrated by use of firearms. Homicides, suicides, domestic violence and accidents caused by guns are pervasive in all parts of the country, traumatizing families and communities every day. In the short term, we implore all legislative bodies to pass legislation that ban assault weapons, require universal background checks for all gun sales, provide funding for gun violence prevention research, and make the trafficking in weapons a federal crime. At the same time, we must continue examining the root causes of violence and working to change our culture. ¶The Sisters of St. Joseph pledge our support to end the scourge of rage and hatred, and we will consistently call for legislation to end gun violence.
We, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and our partners assembled for our Congregational Chapter, make public our concern about the disturbing state of politics in the United States. We are appalled and saddened at the growing polarization, which is intensified by incivility, bigotry, racism, intolerance, and deception.
Our Catholic faith calls us to live in right relationship with all peoples and with creation. We join our voices with all others who desire a world where every person is treated with respect and dignity. This is a responsibility from which no one is exempt. We intend to use our resources and energy to work toward a society built on unity and reconciliation.
Words matter. We challenge President Trump, members of Congress, all elected officials, and all persons to cease using rhetoric and language that belittles and disrespects the sacredness of any person and group. We call for civil and respectful discourse to address the differences among us and reach just solutions.
On July 14-28, our congregation will hold a Congregational Chapter, which takes place every six years. This gathering will involve more than 130 Sisters, associates, and support staff from across the United States, Japan and Peru traveling to St. Louis, Missouri. During the meeting, the Chapter body will create the “Acts of Chapter,” which are calls to action for our community. One of the Acts of Chapter from our last Congregational Chapter in 2013 called us to “act with urgency to protect [Earth’s] stability and integrity and to celebrate her beauty wherever we are.”
We know that climate change is at a crisis level on our planet and that all of our travel contributes to the problem. We also know that climate change is basically climate injustice because as we take advantage of convenient ways of travel, we simultaneously contribute to the conditions of climate disruption that disproportionately affect women, children, people of color, and other vulnerable groups.
By offsetting those emissions, we are acting concretely from our 2013 Acts of Chapter which call us to consider, “How does this decision/action impact the Earth community?” It is possible for us to make a significant contribution towards making our gathering carbon-neutral and therefore less of an injustice to our dear neighbors.
The following describes the efforts and actions that the congregation will be taking to offset the carbon footprints caused by our travel.
Our Congregational Chapter in St. Louis will necessitate a lot of travel for about 100 delegates, 22 from the Albany Province. Travel, especially by plane, creates a great deal of CO2. At this time when global warming is reaching critical levels, we need to take action to mitigate our impact on our Earth.
So what do you do when travel is imperative? Carbon offsets are part of the solution. According to Wikipedia, “Carbon offsets are measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e). One tonne of carbon offset represents the reduction of one tonne of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases.
There are two markets for carbon offsets. In the larger, compliance market, companies, governments, or other entities buy carbon offsets in order to comply with caps on the total amount of carbon dioxide they are allowed to emit. (These are caps agreed on in the Kyoto Protocol, for example.)
In the much smaller, voluntary market, individuals, companies, or governments purchase carbon offsets to mitigate their own greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, electricity use, and other sources. For example, an individual might purchase carbon offsets to compensate for the greenhouse gas emissions caused by personal air travel. Carbon offset vendors offer direct purchase of carbon offsets, often also offering other services such as designating a carbon offset project to support or measuring a purchaser’s carbon footprint. In 2016, about $191.3 million of carbon offsets were purchased in the voluntary market, representing about 63.4 million metric tons of CO2e reductions” (Wikipedia, “Carbon Offsets”).
It is very exciting that voluntary carbon offsets are becoming so popular! After calculating our offsets, we learned that a round trip from Albany to St. Louis creates about 1,148 pounds of carbon dioxide and that our estimated offset cost for 22 delegates at $5.73 per trip would be about $127. (https://www.terrapass.com/calculate-carbon-offsets). This is an estimate because not everyone is flying from Albany and some trips necessitate two layovers, which create more carbon dioxide.
The really good news is that our Province Leadership Team has pledged $150 and the HomeLand Committee will give $200 toward offsets. This is more than double the actual cost of offsets!
It was decided that we would make this donation to Heifer International to plant trees in Heifer-sponsored projects. This really fulfills two goals: first, our offsets to mitigate greenhouse gases and second, our food focus since the trees will aid farmers in developing countries. According to Heifer International:
This tree gift includes seedlings and saplings of trees appropriate to the region. Recipients are educated on nurturing young trees and the importance of reforestation.
A family with a small orchard is able to supplement their diet with delicious fruits and vegetables while becoming self-reliant at the same time. Passing on the seedlings enables communities to continue the cycle of sustainability. Your plant a tree gift ensures a healthy, productive future while fighting poverty and hunger.
We are working to fulfill our call to action of the 2013 Chapter which challenges us “to ask in every deliberation, “How does this decision/action impact the Earth community.”
Each Congregational Chapter calls us to respond to the needs of the times. Within our provinces, we then “divide the city” and respond in diverse ways. This is exactly how a group of sisters, associates, and partners from across the Congregation responded to the 2013 Call “…to ask in every deliberation, ‘How does this decision/action impact the Earth community?'”
We met through Zoom to discuss one of our primary concerns: Climate Justice. We acknowledged our role in the injustices caused by a lifestyle that is degrading Earth systems and displacing Earth’s human and other-than-human communities. It became clear that our congregation must offset the carbon impact of our Congregational Chapter. We strategized ways to act locally regarding our carbon footprint and then went to our prospective province leadership teams to request action.
Here in the Los Angeles Province, we used a reliable carbon calculator to determine the tonnes of carbon released into Earth’s atmosphere because of our travel to and from Province Chapter. We will be doing the same for our travel to the Congregational Chapter in July. We then contributed the calculated amount (in dollars) to Community Healing Gardens in Santa Monica. They give a monthly harvest to the St. Joseph Center’s Bread and Roses Café where they serve over 100 meals to those who are homeless or transitioning back into society through their program. In addition, the Healing Gardens offer an urban school garden program. Urban gardening, removes carbon from the atmosphere, reducing the climate injustice caused by our travel activity.
Albany, St. Louis and St. Paul provinces have also offset their carbon footprint in diverse ways, according to the local needs. May we continue to “think congregational and act provincial” as we celebrate our diversity in communion within the Congregation of the Great Love of God.
What does CO2 have to do with our last Province Chapter?
One of the things we did at our last chapter was to count our carbon footprint in traveling back and forth to the meeting. We roughly put into the atmosphere 10 tons of CO2, which, believe it or not, was not as bad as we thought it was going to be. We did better because more people are carpooling, many people live in the St. Louis area, and we are purchasing hybrids and fuel-efficient cars.
But here’s a reality check: the average American releases between 16 and 20 metric tons of CO2 and in Peru the average household releases 1.8 metric tons of CO2.
So as you can see, we have a ways to go to be more sustainable. That is why we decided to purchase carbon offset credits.
What are carbon offset credits?
According to the Sierra Club, the term “offset” might imply that you are “neutralizing” the impact of your travel, and thus it has no impact. This is not the case. Once you have emitted carbon, it is released into the atmosphere, and you can’t “take it back.” What offsetting does is help reduce carbon emissions elsewhere.
The province has purchased carbon offsets from:
These donations do not make up for our carbon usage. It’s more of an investment in the future so that less carbon will be used in other parts of the world. It’s a way to remind each of us that how we live costs more to the environment than we realize.
Why not give Mother Earth a gift?
So why not give Mother Earth the gift of carbon offsets? Use the links above to visit the websites for the organizations from which the province chose to purchase carbon offsets. It’s simple, inexpensive, easy, and it says “I care about Earth!”
Thank you for caring for Creation today and every day!
St. Paul participates in the congregational action to mitigate our carbon footprint caused by travel to Congregational Chapter meetings in St. Louis. Fourteen delegates will travel by airplane and six will travel in three cars.
We will offset the carbon use by dedicating money to plant trees on our St. Paul campus woodland area. We will include a community ritual with an educational component at the time of planting.
Our vice-province of Peru is going to donate $100 toward local environmental projects where we are serving as Sisters of St. Joseph. One project will take place in Las Brisas where the Sisters are working with the parish community to add a garden area at the parish church. The other project is in the Canto Chico neighborhood in Lima, where our sisters will be involving the children in a project to plant trees in the neighborhood park. The children will learn how to care for the plants and will be responsible for watering and protecting the plants.
The Dream and Promise Act 2019 (read the bill) is about to make its way to the House of Representatives for debate and vote. We join with the U.S. Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph, LCWR, the USCCB Justice for Immigrants Committee, and numerous other organizations in urging our legislators to support this bill. The bill provides legal residency status for millions of young immigrants and residents of countries with temporary protected status (TPS).
The Dream & Promise Act would protect two million people from deportation and provide a pathway to citizenship.
Please contact your U.S. Representative to ask them to support this important bill! Look up your rep