Caring for the Environment
“The most profound motive for our work is this knowing that we share in creation. Learning the meaning of creation in our daily lives will help us to live holier lives. It will fill the world with the spirit of Christ, the spirit of justice, charity, and peace.” – Pope John Paul II, 1981, Laborem Exercens.
The Sisters of St. Joseph Earth Tones Ministry is rooted in our direct participation in the sacrament of creation. As a congregation, we are committed to conserving resources; living in sustainable ways as demonstrated on our Baden grounds; and encouraging an understanding and awareness of God in nature. Your gift to the Caring for All Creation Fund is a tangible expression of your shared commitment to our values.
Earth Tones Ministry is committed to nourishing the bodies and souls of our dear neighbors and affirming their dignity. We directly address food insecurity in our region by providing fresh, organic, and nutritious produce to area food banks. We partner with several organizations in Beaver County and use our gardens and grounds to provide job training for at-risk teens and to adults with barriers to employment.
We offer one of the largest privately owned green spaces (80 acres) in Beaver County to retreatants and visitors alike, inviting them to connect with God in nature. With its labyrinth, grotto, tree trails, community gardens, bees and chickens, our outdoor campus attracts hundreds of visitors each year. In all of these ways, we are invested in bringing our community together, all while we steward creation – the earth, air, water, flora, and fauna that are integral to our physical and spiritual well-being.
Chickens for Change
Hens have been part of the ecosystem on the Motherhouse grounds since 2014. Our flock of 16 hens provides fresh, nutritious and protein dense eggs for our Sisters and guests in our dining room, and for our neighbors in Beaver County who struggle with food insecurity. Each year, we donate nearly 100 dozen eggs which help reduce food insecurity to neighbors in need. People are also fascinated with chickens, and they offer an interactive and fun way to learn about the circle of life, ethical and sustainable farming practices, food sources, pet care and natural animal behaviors.
Bees for Beauty
In the tradition of the working farm and apiary that we operated on the grounds in the early 1900s, the Sisters reintroduced two beehives in 2005. Today, the number of hives has grown to 11, and during a good year, produce an average of 100 pounds of honey per hive! The honey is used in the dining room and sold in our Motherhouse gift shop and online. The remaining beeswax is used to make all-natural products, such as moisturizing cream, soap and lip balm. These items are also available on a limited basis in the gift shop and online.
Gardens for Good
Two 2,500-square-foot gardens, Miriam’s and Elizabeth’s Gardens, were created on the Motherhouse grounds and opened to seniors and lower-income county residents in another effort to address food insecurity in Beaver County. In the past three years, the gardens have donated more than 7,000 pounds of fresh produce to local food banks. Seventeen different individuals or family units from five boroughs or townships have tended garden beds.
Contributions to the Caring for All Creation Fund will help fund the purchase of tools, equipment and supplies needed to maintain our chickens, bees and community gardens. Because of you, we can maintain and preserve our cherished natural resources, practice and promote sustainable living, and pursue our commitment to reduce food insecurity among our dear neighbors.
Outdoor Classroom and Wash Station
The natural beauty and rich ecology of our Baden campus make it an ideal outdoor classroom.
Earth Tones staff conducts outdoor educational programs as well as nature retreats throughout the warm weather months. Our staff also hosts a variety of groups who share our ecological values to care for and preserve Earth for future generations.
Scouts, students, mission groups and others work on environmental projects, perform volunteer service such as trail and labyrinth maintenance, or organize other functions.
We seek donations to construct an outdoor pavilion and wash station so that visiting groups can attend on-site classes and programs and share meals together, even in inclement weather. The wash station will provide a sheltered space for community gardeners to clean their produce before donating to food banks.
With your help, we can bring more people together to learn about the environment and to act sustainably; to deepen their sense of community; to experience the Sisters’ hospitality; and to reflect on God’s presence in nature.
Green Teens Gardening Internship Program
In 2011, the Sisters began offering the Green Teen Gardening Internship program, an eight-week course designed to teach sustainable gardening skills and provide leadership training to Beaver County high school or college students with particular challenges or barriers to employment. Training sessions take place in our community gardens (Miriam’s and Elizabeth’s) where students learn about soil preparation, planting, watering, weeding, pest management, composting, harvesting, and other landscaping skills, while the spiritual elements of the program impart reverence for Earth and awareness of God’s presence in nature.
Participants practice leadership skills by coordinating and overseeing groups of other teens who are on-site for community service projects. Lastly, they help deliver fresh garden produce to soup kitchens and food banks, where they will witness food insecurity firsthand and see the positive impact that their efforts can have on others’ lives. Funding is needed for students’ meals, transportation, personal protective equipment (PPE), gardening supplies, and educational materials.
Because of you, several young people each year will acquire life and work skills that can open doors to a better life than might otherwise be possible; develop a love of gardening and reverence for the Earth; and become attuned to God’s presence in nature.
Volunteer Work Days
Our Earth Tones Ministry staff is small, so we’re blessed to have a large number of dedicated volunteers to help maintain our 80-plus acres, especially during the growing season. Our volunteers are indispensable to our Eco Ministry. Without them, we would have to devote most of our time to routine grounds and garden maintenance, and much less time to educational and community outreach to which we are deeply committed. Out of respect and gratitude for our volunteers, we need to equip them with the tools to do their work and to recognize them for their labors of love.
By helping to fund equipment, supplies, and an annual volunteer recognition event, you can help deepen our relationship with our volunteers so that we have a far greater capacity to serve the dear neighbor than would otherwise be possible.