All posts by CSJ Administrator

The Spirituality of Canning

Janet Speth, CSJ on behalf of the Federation Ecology Committee

These late summer days, I await the showing of those first red tomatoes in my small garden. I anticipate their delicious taste fresh off the vine and the enjoyment of preserving them for sauces and soups for cold winter nights.

Participating in the ‘4 P’s of Local Food: Planting, Picking, Preparing and Preserving’ (1) and following the 100 mile radius for purchasing local food continually raises our consciousness about care for Earth. We impact global warming by fostering relationships with local farmers, reducing long distance transportation; and by canning we provide local food year round, decrease food waste and reuse glass Mason jars. However, beyond the environmental impact how does preserving: bottling and canning, deepen our evolutionary spirituality? A few Sisters generously offered to expand my musings.

Julian of Norwich prayed, “Within us – as a sheer gift of God- is the capacity to bring forth what has never been before.” Canning is a work of art and in this creative expression we participate in new unfolding of the Universe. Graced with Earth’s abundance we share in its cycles of dying and re-birthing as fruits are transformed into delicious jams and jellies and zucchini and cucumbers into zesty relishes and pickles. Our rootedness in Earth’s values of diversity, inter-dependency and intimacy is embedded in these sacred relationships with the natural world.

Inter-relatedness is also enlivened as we recapture fond memories of our mothers and grandmothers lovingly putting down garden produce. A sense of belonging to cultural identities and ancestral heritage is nurtured as we now carry forward generational wisdoms of the land. Even if we are not attracted to doing canning, we are steeped in these connections each time we enjoy tasty home-made preserves.

Essential to inter-dependency is community building. Nature manifests this in the intricacies of eco-systems. Canning embodies our charism of presence to the dear neighbour. Together, Sisters Sharon Miller and Pauline Guindon (SSM) make jelly from their crab apple trees for the community at North Bay’s ecumenical “Gathering Place,” which welcomes the homeless, disadvantaged, and economically and spiritually challenged. Sister Gwen Smith (Toronto) makes preserves with the participants at the Mustard Seed Community Kitchen. The communion climax is, “Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord,” with all sharing a dish made from the fruits of their labour. Sisters Linda Gregg and Mary Rowell (in Canada) ensure that food from the Community Gardens at the Villa is preserved and used to nourish the many retreatants that come throughout the year.

Mary Oliver in her poem, Answers, writes: “How she (her grandmother) poured confusion out, how she cooled and labelled all the wild sauces of the brimming year.”

Preserving the fruits of the earth is a holy activity. It takes time, patience, and care and fosters joy. It invites us to attend the body of Christ with reverence and grateful heart. Even the simple act of giving a gift of preserves to family and friends is a reaching out in love. Most importantly it is an act of hope and optimism trusting in the providence of the Divine, bestower of fruitfulness, ever promising the flourishing of all life.

(1) Planting, Picking, Preparing and  Preserving These are the 4 P’s of  Local Food, as coined by Neil Tilley, an organic farmer and advocate for  environmental stewardship from  Newfoundland.

(2) Thank you to Sisters Betty Lou Knox, Pauline Guindon, Sharon Miller, Gwen Smith, Linda Gregg, and Mary Rowell.

Part 25 – September 2017

Background Setting for Conversations that Matter

Nancy Wales, CSK on behalf of the Federation Ecology Committee

As we know, the various regional hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have concluded and the Royal Commission has released its final report. This comprehensive report offered its potentially impactful and transformative recommendations as 94 Calls to Acton. The Calls to Acton provided “a general handbook on how to achieve reconciliation within Canada.” Lenard Monkman, CBC NEWS

No doubt, our exposure to Survivors’ stories opens our minds and softens our hearts to the unimaginable and horrendous experience of many of the Residential School attendees. How-ever, coming to grips with the ongoing events of our shared Canadian history will require much more than just learning about the legacy of residential schools.

Owning our past calls us to create a shared future, which is “a multi-faceted process that restores lands, economic self-sufficiency, and political jurisdiction to First Nations and develops a respectful and just relationship between First Nations and Canada.”  Centre for First Nations Governance

It is apparent that the task ahead is monumental both in size and significance. However, it’s important to keep in mind the words of Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

An Important Step: Face to Face Conversations

Reflecting on what reconciliation means to me, and us, collectively, it seemed important to have a conversation with 2, local respected elders. Sister Margo and I met Dan and Mary Lou Smoke while working on a local T and R initiative.

In our visit with them, in their home, Sister Margo and I felt their hospitality and enjoyed Kana’talako Indian Cookies and lemonade. I came away from our time together knowing a little more of their personal journey of discovering their cultural roots with its rich ceremonies and traditional wisdom.

Dan is encouraged that following the process of the Royal Commission and the release of its Calls to Acton there has been an evident surge in interest among Canadians to become more familiar with the history, diversity, and richness of First Nations peoples.

It is significant to him that Western University’s Senate, among other bodies, decided to include the naming of traditional territorial lands on which the group gathers for events. I came away realizing the importance of this simple act as a way to include, recognize, and honour our Indigenous Peoples.

However, Dan laments that 100+ natve communites remain without access to clean drinking water.

Furthermore, in neighbouring Delaware, ON plans are underway to build a new waste water treatment plant which raises concerns for him about the future water quality from the Thames River. This is the source of drinking water for London’s 3 neighbouring reserves, Thames First Nation, Oneida Nation, and Munsee-Delaware Nation.

Does this water crisis of which Dan spoke not raise our group conscience for the need for us to contact our local government representatives to apply public pressure to initiate concrete steps to rectify the intolerable situation faced by boil water communities? Our founding charism of unity and reconciliation urges us to assume our personal responsibility in bringing about the necessary healing of the rupture in relationships between individuals of First Nations or Settlers heritage.

Face to face conversations with our First Nations sisters and brothers offer us opportunities to see our mutual history and shared future from new perspectives.

Dan and Mary Lou encouraged us to visit nearby reserves assuring us that we would be most welcomed. Many communities have gift shops and restaurants where we could begin our conversations. Let us embrace Dan and Mary Lou’s invitation and continue to walk toward reconciliation and right relationships.

Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada Becomes a Blue Community: Working Towards Making Clean Water a Human Right

On December 10, UN Human Rights Day, the Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada will become the first group of religious communities in Canada to be designated a “Blue Community” which supports the right to safe drinking water.

In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution recognizing the human right to water and sanitation. Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si’, says: This is a central issue in today’s world, a problem that affects everyone… and it cries out for practical solutions.

The Council of Canadians and CUPE initiated the global Blue Communities movement which treats water as a common good that is shared by everyone and is the responsibility of all.

As a Blue Community the Federation members will:

  1. Recognize water and sanitation as human rights.
  2. Promote the use of tap water at Congregational facilities and events.
  3. Educate community members & partners to avoid using bottled water where potable water exists.
  4. Uphold a “water commons” framework in which water is shared and the responsibility of all.
  5. Urge the government to adopt sustainable policies that give particular attention to the rights of marginalized groups, communities, and individuals.
  6. “Our commitment to regard water as a basic right calls for developing a culture of care and joining our voices to the cry for justice, respect and responsible sharing of water and to work towards universal access to clean water,” says Sr. Trina Bottos, President of the Federation.

The World Health Organization predicts that half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas by 2025. Currently, 844 million people lack a basic drinking-water service. At any moment, over 100 Indigenous communities in Canada are under drinking water advisories.

Together, we can make a difference. Join us by becoming a Blue Community.

For further information:
Sr. Trina Bottos, President, tbottos@csjssm.ca
Sr. Thérèse Meunier, Congregational Leader, Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto, tmeunier@csj-to.ca
Sr. Bonnie MacLellan, Congregational Leader, Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault Ste Marie, bmaclellan@csjssm.ca
Sr. Margo Ritchie, Congregational Leader, Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada, mritchie@csjcanada.org

Download a PDF version of this Press Release

Part 24 – April 2017

“Concern for Our Fine Feathered Friends:  To Bee or Not to Be”

Kathleen O’Keefe CSJ on behalf of the Ecology Committee 

“Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures, are dependent on one another” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, #42).

As E.O. Wilson puts it, humans have “an innate affinity with nature.”  We are to interact with the natural world with a profound sense of wonder and awe, along with deep appreciation to our Creator God.  In creation, there is “an order and a dynamism that human beings have no right to ignore” (L.S., #221).  “We cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention to the consequences of such interference in other areas …” (L.S., #130-131).

In my research, I learned that there is a need to be able to assess the state of the environment and to use sensitive indicators to do so.  Both birds and bees act as “the canary in the coal mine” in terrestrial ecosystems.  Bird and bee monitoring have become essential parts of our adaptation to our changing global circumstances.

“The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all” (L.S., #23).

 On the David Suzuki Foundation website, I read that living beings, including birds and bees, “are moving, adapting and in some cases dying as a direct or indirect result of environmental shifts associated with our changing climate — disrupting intricate interactions among species with profound implications for the natural systems on which humans depend.”

The Nature Canada website stated that “climate change can alter distribution, abundance, behavior and genetic composition of birds” and, can affect the “timing of events like migration or breeding.”  Habitat loss and alien invasive species make matters worse for birds.  Extinction risks increase as a mismatch of birds and their environment takes place.

“How many songbirds would there be without the berries that result from pollination by bees?”  Laurence Packer’s book, “Keeping the Bees” sheds light on this important topic.  Climate change is affecting pollination by disrupting the synchronized timing at which bees pollinate.  Flowers are blooming earlier in the growing season due to rising temperatures, before many bees have a chance at pollinating the plants.  Thus, when bees finally begin pollination there is limited nectar available and competition for these valuable resources becomes more intense.

A report from Health Canada reveals that the bee population is in real danger due to the use of “new highly toxic systemic pesticides in agriculture.”  We need bees for their role in pollinating many food crops on which we depend.  David Suzuki declares, “bees are responsible for about one third of our food supply, and the consequences of not taking action to protect them are frightening.”

Pope Francis challenges each person alive today with these words: “Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is first and foremost up to us” (L.S., #160).  He urges us to become a part of the “bold cultural revolution.”

 Suggested Resource: 

“On care for our common home:  A dialogue guide for Laudato Si’’ Written by Janet Sommerville and William F. Ryan SJ with Anne O’Brien GSIC and Anne-Marie Jackson.  Ottawa:  St. Joseph Communications, 2016.

A Failed Promise and God’s Promise

Linda Gregg CSJ on behalf of the Federation Ecology Committee

In the world of vegetable production, purveyors of genetically modified (GM0) seeds promised great things for the global community, trumpeting greater food production and reduced pesticide use in a relatively short time. GMO seeds were the answer for a starving world. This was in the late 80’s -90’s. Canada and United States bought into that message. Western Europe did not.

The twofold promise of GMO seeds was first, to make crops immune to the effects of weed killers and inherently resistant to many pests, and second, because the plants from these seeds would grow so robustly that GMO seeds would be heralded as indispensable in feeding the population of a growing world. This would also require less spraying of crops with pesticides.

It is a failed promise.

In the past twenty years the analysis of yields from both the U.S. and Western Europe reveals little difference between crops of non-GMO seeds in Western Europe and crops using GMO seeds in the U.S. and Canada. Overall pesticide use has increased in the U.S. while in France there have been major reductions in overall pesticide use. The vaunted abundance of crop yields has failed to materialize. One would assume similar statistics in Canada. This increase occurs despite GMO being the seed of choice planted for the major crops of corn and soybeans in North America. The reality is that herbicide use on corn and soybeans has soared. Making more profits for Monsanto. Farmers cannot save their own seed and are tied contractually to purchase GMO seeds. Although Western Europe is closed to GMO, Monsanto boasts of surging markets in other places of the globe

One is reminded of the story of David & Goliath. Yet, resistance to corporate greed is not without effect. Although some markets are certainly soaring for Monsanto, there is resistance, notably in Africa, India and South America. And they are statistically significant. Just not reported as such. There are pieces of light in the darkness of corporate deceit.

One is also reminded of a vulnerable child born in a stable, in a time of deep darkness. A light that could not be quenched. A promise that was and is fulfilled. It is to believe in the light that is stronger than any darkness of heart. We are part of those pieces of light that pierce the darkness of corporate greed every time we pray for organic farmers, buy organic food and wherever we can plant heritage seeds, whether it be on a balcony or in a field. Sometimes these seeds will be planted in our home gardens, sometime they will be the seeds of hope planted in our prayers. We all are part of bringing to birth the promise of God’s kin-dom. All are needed to quench the darkness and bring the light of God’s love to birth in our world and in our time. One seed at a time.