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Shepherd's Corner Ecology Center: Careful stewards of God's creation

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Shepherd's Corner, an ecology ministry in Blacklick, Ohio, is a ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Peace. Its director Dominican Sr. Diane Kozlowski introduces Shepherd's Corner and its work.

Shepherd’s Corner is an ecology ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Peace located in Blacklick, Ohio. The 160 acres of land provide a natural oasis in the midst of recent development. The land’s diverse range of habitats offers a haven for wildlife and native flora and a place of peace, beauty, and spiritual refreshment for humans. Our vision statement expresses our hopes: Shepherd’s Corner Ecology Center is a small corner of creation seeking to recreate the land’s wholeness by rediscovering the life-giving harmony between the people and the land. Here, people of all backgrounds can learn to reconnect with the natural environment, themselves, one another, and the Creator who made them all.

A feather on God's breath: Recovering our hearts

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A memory: I was 21, in Vietnam-era military police school, with 40 others in the hill country of central Texas. We were all exhausted, dirty and dispirited on a long march back from the pistol range. Suddenly one of our squad leaders started loudly singing, "Monday, Monday," a then-current hit from the folk-rock group The Mamas and the Papas.

To a man, we all took up the lyrics. Our drudgery shape-shifted into a make-it-up-as-you-go bugaloo down the gravel road. In a moment, fatigue-clad automatons were transformed into a spunky, badly harmonizing, ragtag assembly of uniquely peppy spirits with a whole new lease on life that day.

Another memory: While living on the West Coast, I was driving home in my battered little convertible across the Golden Gate Bridge The siren blast of a freighter outward bound for Capetown or Singapore duetted with the foghorns on the bridge's towers. Past the glittery bay-reflected lights of Sausalito, I saw ahead the pastel tiers of fog-stalked San Francisco looking ever so bedazzling like the Emerald City of Oz. Off to the right, the titanic, heaving mystery of the Pacific Ocean brooded in distant, cloud-shrouded darkness.

Chop, fry boil: Eating for one or for six billion

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Learning a cooking repertoire of three basic recipes can get anyone into the kitchen and beyond the realm of takeout food, microwaved popcorn and bologna sandwiches in a few days.

"Chop, Fry, Boil: Eating for One, or 6 Billion" is the latest entry in the Sustainable Living series in the New York Times, outlining three basic cooking recipes that can provide the basis for sustainable eating in the home.

The puppet and the cricket: the value of silence

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I once interviewed Jay Taylor, director of spiritual formation for the Pentecostal Assemblies of God seminary in Springfield, Mo. His students had been spending some weekends at a remote Trappist monastery 70 miles from Springfield. Taylor said the formation team was not interested in creating monks but wanted its students to learn the importance of inward-directed spiritual disciplines.

The monastery’s Catholicism, its chanting, statues, icons, woolen robes, scapulars and incense, he said, were not as alien to the Pentecostal seminarians as the hushed quiet encountered there.

“It’s more than a little intimidating. It’s a shock when they experience their mind flying all over the place, hearing their inside chatter for what it is.”

Most of us live in a cacophonous world, and suffer for it in ways we’re not even aware of. Since the desert fathers and mothers in the early centuries, silence and a quiet mind have held an important place in the Catholic spiritual tradition.

Buddhists say the silence behind creation has a density to it, a physical-ness. It is teeming with possibility and potential. Silence is creative, healing and, most important, gives us wise counsel.

GM crops breed economic dependence, new form of slavery, says cardinal

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By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- If farmers in Africa had greater access to fertile, arable land safe from armed conflict and pollutants, they would not need genetically modified crops to produce food, said the head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Making growers reliant on proprietary, genetically modified seeds smacks of "the usual game of economic dependence," which in turn, "stands out like a new form of slavery," said Cardinal Peter Turkson.

The Ghanaian cardinal's comments came in an interview with the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano Jan. 5.

It is "a scandal" that nearly 1 billion people suffer from hunger, Cardinal Turkson said, especially since there is more than enough food to feed the whole world.

Crops and livestock are destroyed because of strict trade restraints or in order to keep food prices high and, in wealthier countries, edible food "is thrown in the garbage," he said.

"All it would take is a little bit more solidarity and much less egoism" and there would be enough food to nourish even twice the current world population, he said.

Suggested Lenten actions to benefit the Earth

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Cut down on electricity use:
a) Turn off lights when not in use.
b) Unplug things seldom used.
c) Turn off the TV and radio that are just background noise.
d) Turn off the computer if you won’t be using it for several hours.
e) Use lower wattage bulbs in places that don’t need bright light.
f) Replace your current light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs that use 75 percent less energy.
g) Have a day a week of no TV, radio, computer, video games, and other electronics use.

Make earth-beneficial changes in your eating habits:
a) Eat out less at fast-food restaurants
b) Eat more organic and locally-grown foods
c) Eat less or no meat. Eat beans, grains, brown rice, nuts, seeds, tofu and more vegetables and fruits.
d) Cut back on highly packaged foods and snacks.
e) Eliminate or decrease consumption of soda, bottled water, and drinks purchased in styrofoam or plastic cups/bottles
f) Use canvas bags for your groceries and other purchases

Make changes in purchases and consumption:
a) For a certain time period, decide that you will purchase only what is NECESSARY. Have a buying moratorium.

Get creative this Lent: A parish program for Earth care

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I know it’s not fair. You just came out of the busy Christmas liturgical season, and here I am asking you to be thinking about Lent already. It’s just that I wanted to put my two-cents in early before all the Lenten plans were made. I’m aware that many parishes have certain Lenten traditions that they stick to, but if you’re a little tried of the status quo and want a fresh idea for a Lent, I’d like to share what our parish did a couple of years ago.

Our Green Team is always looking for ways to educate our parishioners on connections between faith and caring for the Earth, so Lent seemed like an ideal time for this. We wanted ecology to be a total parish theme, so got buy-in and approval from the pastor and parish council. This was easy, because I think most church leaders are happy to have a parish group take the initiative on a new project.

New Food and Drug Administration numbers reveal food animals consume the lion's share of antibiotics

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A report on the Center for a Livable Future Web site details the overuse of antibiotics in the nation's factory farms.

"Antibiotics, one of the world’s greatest medical discoveries, are slowly losing their effectiveness," the report says, "in fighting bacterial infections and the massive use of the drugs in food animals may be the biggest culprit. The growing threat of antibiotic resistance is largely due to the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in both people and animals, which leads to an increase in 'super-bacteria.' However, people use a much smaller portion of antibiotics sold in this country compared to the amount set aside for food animals.

Recent Pew Poll: Religion and the environment

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Submitted by Adam R. Smith. Smith is a leadership fellow at an environmental non-profit in Washington, DC.

"On any given Sunday, across America, pastors are preaching the good news. These men and women of the cloth are challenged weekly to share their thoughts on the infinite in a very finite amount of time. This naturally poses a problem as to what should be included and what is better left for another Sunday. A recent study finds that the majority of Christian preachers in America have been leaving the environment out of their sermons.

"According to a recent Pew study on American religion: 'Just under half (47 percent) of those who attend worship services regularly say that their clergy speak out on the environment… The majority of white Catholics (64 percent), white evangelical Protestants (59 percent) and white mainline Protestants (51 percent) in the survey say that the environment is not discussed at their place of worship.'

"The environmental awareness award, if there were such a thing, would go to Black Protestant congregations: More black Protestants (59 percent) than other religious groups report hearing about the environment from their clergy.

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July 4-17, 2014

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