Garden Retreat

8 June 19 | Posted in Garden, Saints, Spirituality

For me, God and Nature are intricately bound. I feel God in a storm. I am in awe of God in a mountain. But I love God in the serenity of a garden. My restless soul is at peace in its borders.

I had originally planned to construct a “Biblical herb garden” or a monastery herb garden, but I dispensed with the raised bed and the limited selection of herbs. I wanted to include tomatoes and peppers, so good to eat in summer. The borders are rocks and old bricks or pieces of brick I picked up during walks along Peconic Bay.  I threw in some oyster shells and interesting pieces of driftwood. 

My garden is a balance of religion and whimsy– full of herbs, gnomes, saints, cement ducks, vegetables and sayings by spiritual people. The quotes serve to remind me of Catholicism’s spiritual connection to Nature, and the presence of God in everything around us. My favorites are:  “We always plant better than we know.” – Sr. Julia McGroaty, a founder of Trinity College, Washington, DC (my alma mater). “God is a God of Surprises.” – Pope Francis.  “Remember who you are and whose you are.” – Sr. Thea Bowman, a religious woman I admire for her courage, patience, and faith.  I hope she is named a saint.

Maurice the Octopus

29 May 19 | Posted in Animals, Events, Food, Spirituality

I have had a number of thought and soul changing experiences with animals.  I loved like a family member most of our dogs–especially Winston and Cutie. Constant in their affections, they taught me love and emotions are not limited to human beings. DOG really is GOD spelled backwards. Seeing a great horned owl against the moon in Pennsylvania is an image that will always stay with me.  Hand feeding two baby robins from a ruined nest was a bonding experience. I wanted them to remain wild, so I never named them or kept them in the house.  Each night I would put them in a short white pine to roost. I could recognize their peeps above the forest cacophony.  I was sad when they departed, but happy I helped them to live. From time to time I would see a robin come close and look at me intently.  I wondered if that was one of them, or one of  their babies coming to check out the legend of the Mother Giant who brought their ancestors from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and fed them worms, oatmeal and mashed cherries.

In March 2019 I met Maurice at the Kanaloa Octopus Farm in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.  This aquaculture project began in an effort to help preserve and increase the declining reef octopus populations.  A demand for octopus for food and bait has had a severe impact on their numbers. Scientists are trying to learn how to successfully breed octopuses for food and fishing and leave the wild ones alone.  They are making progress, but haven’t been successful yet.

Maurice was rescued from a fishing boat where he was about to become bait or dinner.  He is now part of the Kanaloa experiment.  Visitors to Kanaloa get to interact with the octopuses.  We discovered each one has their own individual traits and personalities.  Some are curious, shy, grumpy, reclusive, aggressive, clever or playful.  I’m sure there are more parts of their character, but those are the ones I observed in my hour at the aquaculture farm.

After wiggling my fingers in the water to mimic a fish, Maurice came up from the bottom of his tank to investigate.  He gently touched my fingers.  I gently touched his tentacle.  It was very smooth.  The encounter reminded me of the fresco painting of Adam and God in the Sistine Chapel.  One touch changed everything.

Ever since I met Maurice I cannot eat octopus and would never use them for bait.

 

 

Widow’s Hole Preserve, Greenport, NY

14 May 19 | Posted in Events, Spirituality, Stewardship

I recently helped to plant dune grass along the shoreline of Window’s Hole in Greenport.  The grass will help preserve the beach in storms.  The project is sponsored by the Peconic Land Trust, based in Southampton, NY and serving the Twin Forks of Long Island.

Widow’s Hole Preserve lies on top of an old marine Esso station that used to serve the fishing fleet in Greenport decades ago.  It was abandoned, and finally donated to the nonprofit in lieu of cleaning up the old underground tanks. They are probably better off left undisturbed.

Widow’s Hole is a wonderful place to walk and view part of Peconic Bay, Shelter Island, Greenport and the neighboring oyster farm.  The volunteer work was satisfying physically and spiritually. I loved the idea of planting grass that one day I would see waving in the breeze.  It felt good to restore shoreline habitat.  But I liked most of all the spirituality that accompanied the planting, and the wonderful feeling of wholeness and connection in surveying the finished work and bay.

 

Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in the Amazon

14 January 19 | Posted in Events, Global Catholic, Social Justice, Spirituality

On October 22, 2015 one of my Trinity College classmates, Sr. Kathryn Webster, SND, ’74, was invited to give the 10th anniversary lecture for the “Sower’s Seed” program.  Established by Kathy Snider Dunn ’64 and her family, the program highlights alumnae who have incorporated into their lives the traditions of community service and social justice that are central to the Trinity experience and reflect the Catholic tradition that influences Trinity’s mission. These graduates are invited to come to campus to share their stories with Trinity students, in the hope that their stories will inspire new generations to consider community service, either as a volunteer or as a career. 

Kathryn Webster entered Notre Dame at Ilchester, Maryland in 1976.  After her initial formation in 1979 she went to teach sixth graders at the St. Catherine of Genoa school in Brooklyn, New York.  In 1984 the congregation sent her to Brazil.  She has lived there ever since. Sr. Katy has lived in several different towns in the Amazon Basin.  She’s now in Anapu, a city in the Brazilian state of Pará.  She lives with three other SNDs, working as part of a pastoral team visiting communities, holding meetings, and supporting local people in their struggle for land, security and habitat protection.  “My life is a rich and wonderful life,” Katy said, “and I am very grateful for the opportunity to live and work among the people of the Transamazon.”  

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur began their Amazon mission in 1962 with five sisters “imbued with Gospel values and Vatican II perspectives.”  Sr. Dorothy Stang arrived a few years later, and became famous both her advocacy and martrydom.  She was assassinated in Anapu in 2005.  Sr. Dorothy had been outspoken in her efforts on behalf of the poor, small farming families and the environment. “The death of the forest is the end of our life,” she said. She had received death threats from loggers and land owners.  Hired gunmen shot her six times and left her to die on a dirt road.   Mining companies have now moved into the area.  

Sr. Katy worked alongside Sr. Dorothy Strang and has continued Sr. Dorothy’s ministry. Social and environmental justice advocacy in Brazil is “boots to the ground” hard, gritty, dangerous work. “The struggle,” Sr. Katy said, “is for life: of the people, of the land, the forest and the rivers.  We are 50 miles from the Belo Monte complex, a hydroelectric dam that is being built after 30 years of protest because it is a natural disaster, and the energy it will product will not benefit the local population and really is not needed.” 

I didn’t know Katy well at school but I am very proud to be her classmate.  Our Trinity years helped steer both of us into environmental work and shaped our ethics and spirituality.  

 

 

 

I’m Like a Fish – St. Umilta of Faenza

30 October 18 | Posted in Arts and Letters, Saints, Spirituality

I’m like a fish resting in the ocean. The waves rush over the little fish, and the great storms buffet; but this fish goes on swimming, knowing capture is impossible, and the storms just make this fish leap with more agility.

That’s what I do in this world that is a troubled sea. The great currents arrive, and I sail below them. I take shelter in You, God, and let them pass by. Then my soul finds wings in the two arms of Christ on the cross, and I rush up, Jesus, into your protection and saving grace.

When I stop and remember that I’m with You, I don’t fear the currents, I conquer them by navigating through them in Your Peace, and I come out of all storms unharmed.

St. Umilta of Faenza, (1226-1310), Sermons