News Archives » La Vista Ecological Learning Center
La Vista Ecological Learning Center’s Outreach Ministry October 5th, 2022
By Maxine Pohlman, SSND
As part of the outreach ministry of La Vista Ecological Learning Center, I recently offered a four-day retreat to the retired School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) at the Sarah Community in Bridgeton, Missouri. The theme for the retreat was Laudato Si and SSND, during which I explored with the Sisters how our SSND charism aligns with and is challenged by Pope Francis’ encyclical. The hope for the retreat was that Sisters would learn more about the urgency of the ecological crisis along with ways to be more integral to the solution than the cause.
Each day I addressed one concept from the encyclical, showing how Pope Francis’s words revealed new ways to live and express SSND’s charism of unity. Themes included universal communion, ecological spirituality, ecological conversion, and ecological education. Along with the morning presentation, each Sister received a handout with quotes from the SSND Constitution, Laudato Si, and a prayer experience that gave flesh to the theme of the day. The retreat had a unique hybrid form, offering morning presentations and the option of individual direction in the afternoon with SSND spiritual companions.
Not wanting to overly burden the Sisters with facts about our crisis, I embraced Pope Francis’ attitude and ended each morning with one of my favorite quotes:
Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope. (244)
Breathing Life into Pollinator Garden @ La Vista July 25th, 2022
Master Gardener and Master Naturalist Susan Murray plus nine volunteers are in the process of renewing the La Vista Ecological Center Pollinator Garden begun in 2014. The monarda, a native plant that provides nectar for many bees, butterflies, birds, wasps, and other pollinators, is in full bloom. Our plan is to introduce more diversity so that, when the monarda has peaked, other natives will continue serving pollinators throughout the season as well as adding color and interest. This will happen over a period of years.
When some of the plants complete their blooming cycle, they die, making the garden less than attractive. However, we leave those plants because their seeds continue to serve other pollinators. In the winter they provide valuable habitat for species that overwinter here. Rather than clean them up so the garden has a tidy appearance, it is important to continue to provide for native animals.
This garden was created in response to the disappearing monarch butterfly. It, along with many other pollinators, are endangered by use of pesticides and reduction in habitat. It is also a way to give flesh to the Missionary Oblates Land Ethic statement and the Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si.
Our brochure explains the pollinator garden and includes quotes from both documents. The garden is also an educational tool, modeling a way to create this kind of garden and encouraging others to replicate it in the back yards, on a smaller scale.
Download this brochure to learn more about Lavista’s Pollinator Garden.
Spring into Healing Earth Day Celebration May 4th, 2022
By Sr. Maxine Pohlman, SSND, director of La Vista Ecological Learning Center
For fifty-two years, Earth Day has been commemorated on April 22nd since Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson initiated the event out of his deeply felt concern for our deteriorating environment. Interestingly, he elicited the cooperation of a Republican congressman to be his co-chair. Together they launched an effort that has gained momentum and branched out as its significance deepens during our present climate crisis.
This year our Earth Day celebration took place inside the Buckminster Fuller Dome on the campus of Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville which provided the perfect ambience. As I looked up at the continents etched into the dome and then around at the participants drumming and dancing underneath, I felt a deep gratitude for being alive, and isn’t that what an Earth Day Celebration should evoke?
Others felt equally moved. One woman commented, “I felt blessed! I enjoyed sharing thoughts and memories, catching up with old friends, meeting new ones. And the drumming and dancing was awesome!” Another participant wrote a thank you saying, “What an uplifting blend of celebration, inspiration, education and call to action. It was perfect for the Easter season of hope and renewal!”
This event was offered by the Confluence Climate Collaborative, of which La Vista Ecological Learning Center is a member. We had just read and discussed the book All We Can Save: Truth Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, and during the afternoon we shared our favorite quotes, thoughts, and poems. One that especially touched me was by Geneen Marie Haugen: In our time of disturbance and radical change, we are crossing a threshold, a portal, or an unseen bridge from one world to another. It could be said that the bridge is either collapsing beneath us, or being made as we walk together, in the long twilight hours when one civilization gives way to another.
I truly felt that we were making the bridge together as we shared ourselves during the afternoon. And being together ignited my hope that one civilization really is giving way to another, to one that believes in solutions to the climate crisis that hear both the cry of Earth and the cry of the poor. I also felt blessed!
Our Global Biodiversity Crisis – What You Can Do October 16th, 2020
Submitted by Sr. Maxine Pohlman, SSND, director, La Vista Ecological Learning Center
The loss of biodiversity on our planet is even more urgent than the climate crisis but less well-known, putting people, wildlife, and future generations at risk. Scientists report that one million species are in danger of extinction in the coming decades. Urgent action needs to be taken now to reverse the massive loss of plants, insects, and other creatures we depend on for a stable climate, sustainable food supplies and essential pollination services.
All of us can help by participating in Citizen Science Projects right in our local areas. Projects include observing wildlife, measuring night sky brightness, monitoring water quality, counting birds, monitoring bird nests, and many more. Visit the National Geographic website to get ideas. You will be working with thousands of other volunteers and scientists to gather and share important data to a global database.
Visit the National Geographic website to participate.
Photos courtesy, Unsplash.
Introducing the Lavista Learning Garden June 17th, 2020
Since its inception in 2001, La Vista Ecological Learning Center has taught that how we eat determines, to a great extent, how we care for creation. That is why we were aligned with the Community Supported Garden at La Vista for 15 years. Since that project ended in 2019, we have established La Vista Learning Garden under the umbrella of the Oblate Ecological Initiative.
The Learning Garden will be a model and gathering place for novices and area participants to learn and practice:
- sustainable gardening skills like creating a garden plan organic soil preparation and fertilization crop rotation choosing vegetables and their planting times methods for harvesting vegetables growing fruit trees native flower propagation a variety of composting methods
- raising and caring for chickens
- backyard beekeeping
- cooking and nutrition
- hand-carving kitchen utensils
- DIY recycled garden decorations
Vernon DePauw is our head gardener and teacher. He is a nationally known wood carver as well as a backyard gardener, poultryman, and beekeeper. Vernon has been a presenter at the Learning Center for several years. Vernon is faithfully supported by his wife Kathy who is also a volunteer.
Sister Maxine collaborates with Vernon to plan, organize, advertise and execute programs.
Volunteers – A small group of volunteers contribute their skills.
This project has been made possible with the support, encouragement and help of Seamus Finn, OMI, and OMI Novitiate Leadership: Pat McGee, Frank Kuczera and Humphrey Milimo.