Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

Sisters Continue to Plant Seeds of Hope

When Pope Francis published his encyclical Laudato Si’, about caring for all of God’s creation, members of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Brentwood, were ecstatic.

The pope’s words reinforced something that they have been doing for years at their motherhouse in Brentwood, L.I.

Two of the sisters, Mary Lou Buser, and Heather Ganz, who happens to be the youngest member of the Order, maintain and nourish a Garden Ministry that was begun in 1986.

Tucked away on one side of the community’s land on eastern Long Island, the Sisters’ garden harvests a healthy crop of vegetables and flowers, as well as houses several animals.

“What we do is very much in keeping with the new encyclical,” says Sister Mary Lou Buser.

She explains that the garden grows a combination of turnips, Swiss chard, beets and other vegetables and fruits, as well as beautiful flowers.

“The flowers attract both good and bad insects and they take care of each other,” she said, pointing out that they have never used potentially dangerous pesticides in the growing of their crops.

Everything is natural, say the sisters. Crops are rotated so that the soil remains healthy. Bees pollinate the flowers. The manure from the livestock is composted into a rich fertilizer to regenerate the soil.

“One thing relates to another so that what the bees are doing relates to the flowers and the crops. Everything has a connection,” says Sister Helen Kearney, C.S.J., president of the Order.

Some sisters use the vegetables on their own dinner tables to supply a healthy salad. Other foods are left on a community table, to which local folks are welcome to help themselves.

Garden plots are available to local residents who wish to grow their own organic vegetables.

The sisters also conduct an educational program. Local schools are encouraged to bring students for field trips.

“We have to give children the opportunity to love the Earth before we can ask them to clean it,” says Sister Heather.

Popular among the children who visit are the rabbits, goats and chickens who are safely kept on the grounds. Chickens also yield eggs that the sisters say taste much better than store-bought produce.

Sister Helen says that many young people have lost a sense of the consequences of their actions upon the environment.

“We have no sense of the impact of our behavior upon creation and the world,” she points out. “What the pope has done – and very courageously – is to make that link as a moral issue.”

The sisters point to a careless pollution of the air, water and soil as threatening the future of the ecology. Through education and raising their voices in the public square, they hope to raise people’s consciousness about all of creation.

For starters, Sister Mary Lou recommends that people be mindful of the amount of water they use and where their food comes from. They particularly urge support of local farmers so that the produce is fresher, healthier and not treated with preservatives.

Recently, the Sisters of St. Joseph spent a year of study, research and communal discussion before endorsing a Land Ethic Statement that promises “to treat all parts of Earth as sacred and Earth’s beings as our neighbors to be respected and loved…”

Says Sister Heather, “We’re planting seeds of transformation every day.”


Sisters’ Garden Project Fulfills Papal Theme
NET Coverage: St. Joseph Sisters: We Are the Dust of the Earth