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Dominican Sisters of Springfield's Jubilee Farm

Posted by Genevieve Morlino Steigerwald on Mar 4, 2022 6:00:00 AM

Jubilee Farm-2

All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.

Pope Francis, Laudato Si', Paragraph 14

This statement by the Holy Father is certainly striking – an encouragement for every person on earth to use their unique and God-given tools to assist in caring for His creation. The growing problem of climate change may feel like an impossible task to the individual, but Pope Francis is confident that if we all do our part, real change can happen.

That's exactly what The Dominican Sisters of Springfield, IL, are proving to be the case. In 1999, the community became aware of what is now a 164-acre piece of land that has become Jubilee Farm, a “center for ecology and spirituality”. The reality of the Farm came about as the answer to a series of questions: “How do we witness to others the need to live responsibly and sustainably? How do we provide opportunities for others to experience their connection to creation? What do we offer for study and reflection to help others make the connection between sustainable living and their faith?”

Such questions sound fine in theory, but the Dominican Sisters courageously chose to live out their convictions in reality. Their shared vision is to “seek to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the Earth community and to share the gift of the land. Our diverse ministries call us all to live simply and sustainably.[1] This Vision has manifested itself at Jubilee Farm in sustainable farming practices that produce organic herbs and vegetables for the Springfield Dominicans, and raises llamas and alpacas whose wool is used to create beautiful and functional garments at the center.

But the Sisters go a step beyond these farming practices that are gentle on the environment. They also devote much of their efforts to allowing the land to heal by letting it “lie fallow” taking inspiration from the Book of Leviticus, where God commands the Israelites to let their fields rest after several years of growing crops. With the help of biology students from the nearby University of Springfield, they are preserving the prairies and wetlands on their property by removing foreign invasive species allowing the native ones to flourish. The land is therefore allowed to heal through the process of restoration. This also helps it recover from chemicals used in conventional farming practices that, while attempting to make the soil constantly fertile, in reality render it lifeless. The time-honored approach taken by the sisters allows their land to truly heal.

On the education side of things, the Sisters offer classes in sustainable farming practices and workshops for weaving with natural fibers. They also provide spiritual direction and host retreats, and welcome everyone to simply come and spend time with nature. Jubilee Farm isn’t just an educational place; its true purpose is to be a place of renewal, both of the earth and of the human person. Nature, through its very existence, points back to God who made it, and very often spending time contemplating the beauty of creation, helps to strengthen our relationship with the Creator.

Looking to the future, the Dominican Sisters hope that this way of life will become more common with other people seeking to help the earth to heal, and they are committed to progressing in the goals of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform laid out by Pope Francis. In doing so they are setting an example for other people who wish to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.

Sr. Sharon tells us, “Our role is to learn, be attentive, to take our Christian responsibility seriously to do the best we can so the whole of life flourishes. We have taken that role seriously here at Jubilee Farm. We do our best to make sustainable choices about what we eat, what we purchase, what we use to clean, what we drive, how we garden, how we work with the land to keep it from being overrun by invasive species, how we help it reseed itself with its own native wildflowers and grasses. All of this is evident in what we do, and it is and always has been part of our teaching, as well. And as Dominicans, we know that unless we live what we teach, what we preach, we are not credible to others.”

The Sisters hope that others will become inspired to take Pope Francis’ call to heart and devote themselves to the care of creation, and they welcome everyone who wishes to join them in these efforts at Jubilee Farm.

[1] https://jubileefarm.info/about-us/vision-statement/

Topics: Client Mission Stories

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