Kentucky Sister Initiates New Sustainability Ministry
KY [05/15/06] When Sister Claire McGowan was completing ten years
on the St. Catharine, Kentucky Dominican leadership team, she knew
her next call to ministry. She was to give the rest of her life
to addressing the planetary ecological crisis - by promoting sustainability
in rural Kentucky. She also hoped to reknit relationships between
residents of the motherhouse and the people of the county where
St. Catharine’s began over 180 years ago.
Claire applied for the St-Mary-of-the-Woods Earth Literacy Master’s
degree program. Two years later she based her thesis project on
interviews with leaders from various sectors of Washington County
regarding the potential of the county’s systems to move toward
sustainability. Enough openness was expressed to enable her to begin.
In fall 2004 the organization was named New Pioneers for a Sustainable
Future. She set about creating a logo, business card, mission statement,
Somehow the mayor of the neighboring small city heard about the
dream. He offered discounted office space in City Hall in exchange
for New Pioneers establishing and overseeing a curbside pickup recycling
program for the city. Though she knew nothing about public recycling
operations, Claire rolled up her sleeves and learned. Today about
47% of city residents participate with pride in Springfield’s
bi-weekly recycling program.
In the meantime, since women religious are no longer in a position
to donate their service in new ventures, the organization needed
funding. Grant applications were hastily written. Funding came from
Kentucky’s Jonquil Fund and the Columbus and Springfield Dominican
ministry funds as well as the Sisters of Loretto, family, friends,
and local donors. “I’m learning to live with a few months
financial security at a time,” Claire says. “We do everything
we can while we are here. If the universe wants this work to continue,
it will provide the resources.”
New Pioneers’ projects include “Soup and Substance,”
a weekly lunchtime learning program, weekly columns on sustainability
in the county newspaper, water protection education, and promotion
of locally grown food. They work with the local Ministerial Association,
St. Catharine College, the schools, agricultural organizations,
business and civic organizations, and local government to promote
sustainability in whatever ways are possible.
This month New Pioneers received a $12,000 grant from the county
Agricultural Development Board to initiate a county visioning process.
This extensive project will engage the county’s people in
choosing a preferred future that integrates protection of natural
resources, economic development, and community fabric by drawing
from spiritual roots and rural values.
As this time of dramatic ecological challenge, New Pioneers works
to create hope – one rural county at a time.
Today about 47% of city residents participate
with pride in Springfield’s bi-weekly recycling program.