“Touch the Earth lightly, use the Earth gently, nourish the life of the world in our care,” sang Sisters and staff members during a tree blessing ceremony held prior to the removal of 23 trees and shrubs on our front lawn.
For more than 100 years, the consoling presence of these trees offered shade and beauty not only to our Sisters but to school children, Villa residents, neighbors, visitors and passersby. The honey locust, sycamore, silver maple, spruce, plum and crabapple trees sheltered our Motherhouse from severe weather and provided a barrier from the bustling traffic of Ohio River Boulevard.
Over time, the trees witnessed the growth and transformation of our campus and neighboring areas. They, too, grew and became a place for prayer, a shady spot to reflect and a setting for picnics and photographs.
Much like our Congregation, their roots were deep and the trees sought to be united with water, light, food and one another. During the tree blessing, many Sisters recalled spending afternoons on the shaded front lawn and one staff member shared a joyful memory of her brother and sister-in-law taking wedding photographs beneath the sycamore trees.
While our commitment to creation and reverence for life made the tree and shrub removal a painful choice, the planned parking lot will help sustain the ministries, programs and entities on our grounds. When Bartlett’s Tree Service began cutting the trees in April, the project provided essential on-the-job training for tree staff who worked steadily through both snow and rain.
Some of the tree trunks will be used to build a washing area and a small outdoor education building near our community gardens and others will be repurposed into benches to place near the St. Joseph and Sacred Heart statues. Once the new 80-space parking area is complete, we will use some of the 200 hardwoods, pines and ornamental seedlings donated by Bartlett’s to re-populate the tree canopy around the parking lot.
May our neighbors and visitors join us in this process of ‘letting go’ of our beloved trees.