Restoring the health of the land at Holy Wisdom Monastery
The sisters, and their many friends, at Holy Wisdom Monastery have been working at renewing the ecological health of their land for nearly two decades. During that time they have restored over 95 acres of tall grass prairie, the kind that occupied some of this land prior to European settlement. In doing so, they have increase the biological diversity on their land; providing a place to live, and food to eat, for animals, birds, insects and many other organisms.
The motivation of the sisters to care for the earth in this way, at Holy Wisdom Monastery, came from the universal reverence for creation and the stability of Benedictine monastic communities. These spiritual concepts came down through the centuries and still hold a central place in the lives of those who follow the Rule of Benedict. The sisters are also motivated by the teachings of another Benedictine, Hildegard of Bingen. Hildegard believed in a creation-centered theology and wrote and spoke eloquently about the human relationship to God and nature. “Humanity is the most profound of all the works of God’s mighty creation made in a wondrous way with great glory from the dust of the earth and so entangled with the other parts of creation that it can never be separated from them.” This sounds like ecology from someone who lived in the 1100s. The sister’s also appreciate ideas from more recent thinkers on the human relationship to nature. For example Aldo Leopold wrote in A Sand County Almanac, “When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” The sisters do truly love and respect the land and give generously toward caring for the earth.
In 2012 the sisters initiated an ecological land assessment and planning process. They recently received the final Ecological Assessment and Management Plan which analyzes the current condition of monastery land and provides a plan for a comprehensive ecological restoration plan. This new plan calls for restoring several different kinds of ecological communities that once occupied this part of the earth. These include the fire communities of pre-settlement Southern Wisconsin; prairie, savanna, oak hickory woodlands as well as wetlands and other waterways. This rather ambitious plan will require expert understanding of how to restore the diverse ecology of the land, and will require a significant amount of effort to accomplish the work. They have a very modest staff to do this work and therefore will require many more hands to carry out this large restoration project. With this in mind, the sisters created a Friend’s group called the Friends of Wisdom Prairie.
The Friends of Wisdom Prairie is comprised of a fairly large group of people who wish to help the sisters care for the earth. This is an environmental organization with a Benedictine flavor! The members will help organize and carry out volunteer work days and participate in environmental education events including dinners, lectures, outings to visit other natural areas and tours. We hope you will help restore the land and preserve the Benedictine tradition of care for the earth at Holy Wisdom Monastery. Become a Friend and join today!
To learn more about the Friends of Wisdom Prairie or learn about their upcoming events visit benedictinewomen.org/care-for-the-earth/friends-of-wisdom-prairie/ or contact me, Greg Armstrong, at firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-836-1631, x123.