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Green Sisters: A Spiritual Ecology Hardcover – April 24, 2007
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Some call them green nuns; others, eco nuns. But the women who constitute their community say they are green sisters, Catholic religious whose mission is to heal and restore the planet in the ways they know best; namely, through faith and healing mediated by an ecological perspective. This faith and this healing take many forms, as Taylor makes abundantly clear. The sisters build new "earth ministries"; create community-supported organic gardens, in which they engage in "sacred agriculture" and "contemplative gardening"; and build alternative housing structures from renewable materials. Some even develop "green" liturgies and "green" prayers honoring their community. Others practice "companion planting," in which organic growers interplant species to reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides. All cultivate green habits in their everyday diet, dress, housekeeping, use of energy, and so forth. Taylor describes the various individuals in the U.S and Canada who make up this geographically dispersed, spiritually based green community so that Green Sisters will appeal to those interested in women studies, religion (especially Catholicism), ecology, and social justice. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
What a delightful book! Intelligent, informative, enlightening and engagingly written. A sophisticated treatment of the intellectual issues is combined with a passionate concern for the real world. The result is that very rare academic work which is both true to its subject and genuinely hopeful.
--Roger S. Gottlieb, author of A Greener Faith: Religious Environmentalism and our Planet's Future
This is a superb, beautifully written book about Catholic sisters' involvement in the environmental movement. Taylor is not only an expert ethnographer who offers crucial insights into modern American religion, but a wonderful storyteller.
--Catherine A. Brekus, Associate Professor of the History of Christianity, University of Chicago Divinity School
This is one of the best books I have read on the lives and work of Catholic nuns in the United States after the Second Vatican Council. The book makes an essential contribution to the history of Catholic social justice and of American nuns. It is an inspiring call to service on behalf of our endangered planet.
--Robert A. Orsi, Warren Professor of American Religious History, Harvard University
In this absorbing and comprehensive study of the "greening of religion" in Catholic religious communities, Taylor takes the reader on a tour of everything from a biodynamic farm in New Jersey to a community garden in inner-city Detroit that replaced a burned-down crack house...[She] gives a stirring account of how Catholic religious communities long committed to social justice and peace have come to connect with environmental concerns and ecological activism...[Taylor] offers a very helpful critique of agribusiness that monopolizes seed distribution worldwide and of the bioengineering that renders seeds sterile, and she describes the myriad ways in which these sisters are confronting our planetary crisis--from greening their vows to speaking out at a General Electric shareholders meeting. The text may be packed with facts and footnotes, but its author--and the women she quotes--are clearly passionate about their convictions, and sometimes funny...Green Sisters is an academic work of wide-ranging research and scholarship, but it should appeal to any reader who is interested in environmental activism, nature mysticism, social justice, feminism, Catholicism, or monasticism. It makes an important contribution both to contemporary American religious history and to women's religious history.
--Margaret Bullitt-Jonas (Sojourners)
A fascinating book.
--Stephen Scharper (Toronto Star 2007-11-03)
This book discusses how green sisters are "re-in-habiting" sustainable practices as an expression of ecological conviction and religious devotion. It is an account of the greening religious vows modeling sustainability, cultivating diversity, conserving the past, and offering sanctuaries of countercultural reverence for the earth.
--R. A. Boisclair (Choice 2007-11-01)
Green Sisters: A Spiritual Ecology, [is] Sarah McFarland Taylor‘s extensive look at how several communities of religious women throughout the U.S. have linked the soil with the sacred. In other words, their service to the people of God is rooted in the land they occupy. How deeply the assistant professor in the religion department at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., delved into her topic is indicated by the on-site observation, participation and interviews with some of the “green” sisters, as well as extensive electronic communication with those whose companion planting of religious life and respect for the earth have given another dimension to religious life. Those who ask “What is the church doing about the environment?” will find a detailed story of faith told with the right balance of the nuns’ own words and background provided by the author. Together, they narrate a recent, but important, chapter in U.S. church history.
--Brian Olszewski (Catholic News Service 2007-09-14)
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Taylor used on-line interviews, personal visits and individual surveys to determine the scope and impact of more than fifty ecology, spirituality and farming centers sponsored by women religious. She concludes that "the success or failure...to attract new vocations into the movement will be a harbinger of how this movement will affect the revitalization and reinvention of Catholic religious life in the Twenty-first century.
In her analysis Taylor uses the notion of "reinhabiting" both the earth and religious communities. Reinhabiting is a term used with another ecological term "bioregionalism" to describe how to live in place, how to be live in a certain "home" as a measure of sustainability. The author suggests that the Green sisters are re-visioning both their relationship with the earth and the founding values of their religious communities. A prime example of this notion of reinhabiting is the way in which many of the participating religious orders are re-inventing the purpose and mission of motherhouse properties owned by the religious orders by turning them into earth conscious spirituality centers.
Taylor does a good job of placing the green sisters movement in the historical context of the activities of women religious in North America beginning with the very difficult pioneering efforts of founders arriving from Europe in the 1800's through the civil rights movement, the sanctuary movement and ongoing social justice activities throughout their history. The development of the Grail movement is cited as one example of the early involvement of women in combining concern for the earth with the liturgical movement and ritual.
The development of Green Mountains monastery in Vermont in the last ten years is given a lot of attention by Taylor. Some who have made an environmental retreat directed by the co-founders of this new monastery, Gail Worcelo and Bernadette Bostwick may be familiar with this initiative. Green Mountain Monastery is an example of a new religious order based completely on the ecological values espoused by Thomas Berry including new definitions of the traditional three vows.
Many of the examples of earth related spirituality centers cited by Taylor drew inspiration from Genesis Farm, one of the early efforts of a women's religious order to use farm land as a place to combine cosmology, sustainable farming practice and spirituality.
One chapter is devoted to the efforts of a Canadian religious order to organize the preservation of heirloom seeds as a counter balance to the large scale industrialization of farming through the use of genetically modified seeds which contain terminator genes which prevent planting again after the first crop.
Generally, Taylor shows how "it ain't easy being green" by noting the resistance from both church and culture which is directed toward some of the efforts of women religious pioneering in alternative perspectives on both religion and ecology. It is not as if this is anything new since historically women religious have always been fighting for voice in a male dominated church.
Read Green Sisters to be inspired by strong efforts to give meaning to the three vows for women religious at a time when doubt seems to hinder new growth and new vision among male religious.
I plan to send copies to others grappling with these issues.
Thank you Sarah McFarland Taylor for bringing this to the forefront!