Sisters' farm offers visitors opportunity to care for the earth

Mercy Sister Mary Quinn drives a farm vehicle at Mercy Farm in Benson, Vt.

CNS PHOTO | CORI FUGRE URBAN

Mercy Sister Mary Quinn drives a farm vehicle at Mercy Farm in Benson, Vt.

August 29, 2016
CORI FUGRE URBAN
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

At Mercy Farm in Benson, Vt., Mercy sisters are creating a place where people can experience peace and quiet and an opportunity to care for the earth.

Here the importance of the earth is emphasized and visitors are encouraged to find ways they can care for it: organic gardening, recycling, composting, using solar power and reusing, for example.

As well, visitors can experience God in creation. One college student returned to her Catholic faith after visiting the farm.

Three Mercy sisters live on the farm: Sister Elizabeth Secord, Sister Holly Cloutier and Sister Mary Quinn.

In the quiet, "God has a chance to get through," Secord said.

In the farm kitchen, a plaque reads, "Let us be silent that we may hear the whisper of God."

The farm offers retreats, group rentals, school programs, liturgical programs and farm experiences.

Staff members help visitors design their own programs on topics such as canning, bread-making and quilting.

The sisters care for the earth through environmental education, organic gardening and sustainable living practices. Solar energy provides about 85 per cent of their electric needs.

Located on 39 acres, Mercy Farm includes a bee yard with hives and a barn with 20 solar panels. Two sheep - Bailey and Dexter - and numerous egg-laying hens live on the farm.

Visitors sometimes work in the gardens. "We help (visitors) reverence the earth and get a sense of the earth," Secord said.

HEALING THE EARTH

"Healing of the earth" is a focus of the Sisters of Mercy of the Northeast who were once primarily a teaching order.

"We want to help people understand that the materialism and consumerism people experience causes us to be greedy," Secord said. "We want to help them understand the need to cut back on some of our consumption."

Although people have many "things," many are not spiritually fulfilled, she said. "People still feel hungry and empty."

CONNECTED TO EARTH

The sisters hope to help people realize that things they buy cannot fulfill them. "If you are connected to the earth, you're fulfilled," she said. "I see God in the Earth. I see God in all of life."

The Sisters of Mercy, said Quinn, consider care of the earth a "critical concern."

They address that concern through mercy and ecology. "Mercy is compassion" and includes "compassion for earth and all living things," Secord said.

People need to "get with it," Cloutier said, and realize the severity of climate change and humans' effect on the earth.

In his encyclical, Laudato Si', On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis wrote: "Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change."