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25th Anniversary Dedication Celebration of the Missionary Oblates Woods Nature Preserve July 13th, 2018
Down-to-Earth Oblates Break Ground 1993
by Sr. Maxine Pohlman, SSND
In 1993 two local women, Margaret Morrissey and Annie Hoagland, had a special vision for the River bluff area in Alton and Godfrey. Wanting the land along the bluffs to be preserved for future generations, they tried to persuade area landowners to enter into legal agreements to preserve their land, but they were unsuccessful until the Provincial Council of the Oblates agreed. Then other landowners also signed on! Father Lou Studer was on the Council at the time, and he remembers this visit and their follow-up letter campaign. He also remembers that the Council agreeing unanimously to dedicate 16 acres as an Illinois Nature Preserve! These acres is now named the Missionary Oblates Woods Nature Preserve.
“More Important Now Than Ever” was the theme of our celebration. In the past 25 years more land has been developed and forests have continued to degrade; so, preserving high quality forested area has only increased in importance. It was truly visionary to begin preserving as much forested area as possible twenty-five years ago.
The celebration was held on Saturday, July 7th outdoors from 2:00 – 4:00 pm and was attended by over 40 people, including Mayor Mike McCormick, representatives of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission and the Great Rivers Land Trust, faithful Preserve volunteers, friends and the Novitiate Community. The program included a luncheon for special guests, several presentations and a guided hike into the Preserve.
Jack Lau, OMI, served as the emcee, expertly weaving together the presentations with his passion for land and La Vista in particular. Speakers included:
- Debbie Newman, Natural Areas Preservation Specialist with the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, who shared the history of the preservation movement in Illinois, pointing out that the Oblates were the first faith-based group to preserve land in the state
- Pen Daubach, an Illinois Nature Preserves Commissioner, who highlighted the name “Oblate” as “one who offers”, saying that the Oblates have made a big commitment in offering their land to protect biodiversity and to preserve habitat.
- Father Lou Studer, OMI, pointing out that Oblates are “down-to-Earth” priests and brothers seeking practical solutions to issues. “Oblates are close to the people,” he said. “Oblates preach the message of Jesus who often used images from nature in his teaching.” Father Lou also summarized for us the work of Oblates in the
justice, peace and integrity of creation priority, sharing this aspect of the Oblate spirit.
- Maxine Pohlman, SSND, who works with the Preserve volunteers, said that it was the work of this group of highly dedicated people who healed the acres by removing trash, invasive species, and planting native wildflowers. “They work hard, meeting monthly, to tackle a job that looked impossible, but the volunteers have made a huge difference in a few years.” For several years OMI novices have taken part in Preserve work, putting up boundary markers, removing honeysuckle, and participating in controlled burns.
After the presentations, the hike into the Preserve was a real eye-opener for participants who got to experience firsthand what land can look like when it is maintained by people who have learned to do the task correctly. A clear view of the River, the presence of native wildflowers, and the absence of big honeysuckle bushes and invasive trees make the Preserve a beautiful example of what protected land can look like and how it can serve the community of life in this region.
Everyone took away with them a good share of Oblate spirit, esteem for the work of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, and the peace that comes with spending time in a beautiful place.
Yale Scholar Delivers Keynote at Day of Reflection on “Laudato SI” in Belleville Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows May 2nd, 2018
(Originally published on www.omiusa.org)
Thanks to Sr. Maxine Pohlman, SSND, Director of the La Vista Ecological Learning Ctr.
On Saturday, April 21, Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker gave the keynote address at a conference held at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois entitled Our Sacred Earth, Our Common Home. Dr. Tucker is a Senior Lecturer and Research Scholar at Yale University where she has appointments in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies as well as the Divinity School and the Department of Religious Studies. This event is the second in a series devoted to the study and implementation of Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’.
According to Sr. Maxine Pohlman, SSND, Director of the La Vista Ecological Learning Center which co-sponsored the event, “The participants were inspired by Dr. Tucker’s enthusiasm as she shared her appreciation of papal encyclical Laudato Si’. She helped us to wake up to its importance in the Catholic tradition of social encyclicals as well as its worldwide influence and impact beyond Catholicism. Being a leader in the emerging field of Religion and Ecology, she was able to unite the two as she led us through the content of the document.”
Throughout her presentation, Dr. Tucker praised Pope Francis for his leadership and call to action: “The spirituality of Francis in the encyclical is clear: It begins with Mother Earth, the Canticle to Brother Sun and Sister Moon, Bonaventure, you all know the mind’s path to God goes through the natural world…and so much of this is awe-evoking action…we’re looking for renewable energy, the renewal energy we’re looking for is the energy of the spirit. To renew the face of the earth. And that’s where religious communities, spiritual sensibilities and moral force will make a difference.”
After the keynote, the attendees split up for break out sessions, one by Sr. Cheryl Kemner, OSF and Nicole Heerlein of Franciscans for Earth: “The Challenge of Technology and Simple Lifestyle,” another featuring Sr. Maxine Pohlman, SSND, Director of La Vista Ecological Learning Center: “Backyard Revolution,” “Care for the Earth; Care for the Poor” by Sr. Connie Probst, OSF – Co-Director, St. Anthony’s Food Pantry, and “What Can My Parish and Family Do?” by Jamie Hasemeier of Holy Redeemer Parish. In addition, Dr. Tucker held a break out session for religious sisters.
The event, which attracted about 100 people ran from 9 AM to Noon at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. The day was co-sponsored by: the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows; La Vista Ecological Learning Center; the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
2017 World Environment Day: “Connecting People to Nature” June 1st, 2017
“We are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness.”(Laudato Si, 53).
Every June 5th people around the world celebrate World Environment Day to raise awareness about environmental issues. The UN designated this day at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972, with the first observance taking place in 1974 and annually since then.
We also celebrate Pentecost a day before World Environment Day, on Sunday, June 4. Given this intersection, we invite you to explore Breath of Love, a very creative and rich new prayer/reflection resource from Sr. Gen Cassani, SSND. It includes a novena of prayers leading up to Pentecost (6/4), as well as quotes and reflections from Laudato Si’ and sacred scripture, plus ideas for commemorating World Environment Day (6/5).
As Sr. Gen has written, “you are invited to add to, create, have conversations, mull over, contemplate, delight in, question, probe, . . . ” – we simply say enjoy!
Click to download Breath of Love, a Pentecost and Environment resource compiled and designed by Sr. Gen Cassani, SSND.