In the summer of 1994, 65 religious women gathered at St. Gabriel Monastery in Clarks Summit, Pa., to share their emerging environmental dreams with one another.
They named their new vision circle the Sisters of Earth.
The women pictured themselves opening retreat centers and study programs in earth literacy, based on the new cosmology as written about and taught by cosmologist Brian Swimme and "geologian" Passionist Fr. Thomas Berry. One sister dreamed of co-founding a green "ecozoic" monastery with Berry, her mentor. Another aspired to have her community open a green-ministry-of-the-arts shop where people could purchase calendars and posters with Earth spirituality themes.
Their shared vision was to heal both the human spirit and the planet's life-support systems, recalls St. Joseph of Carondelet Sr. Toni Nash, a Californian and one of the four founding members.
Originally, the dream was incubated by Nash, St. Joseph Srs. Mary Lou Dolan and Mary Southard, and Passionist Sr. Gail Worcelo. The four women knew they needed one another's encouragement in bringing their waking dreams to fruition. They had talked to other sisters with similar untested aspirations.
What they aspired to do, after all, was all so very new. "And we didn't have the energy to reinvent the wheel," Nash said.
Were they being impractical? Indulging in fantasies? Well, hardly.