For many people, the meaning of spirituality comes from revering a higher power. But in northern Ohio, there’s a group of nuns working to make spirituality a little more grounded. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Renita Jablonski introduces us to the woman who helped start it all:
For many people, the meaning of spirituality comes from revering a higher
power. But in northern Ohio, there’s a group of nuns working to make
spirituality a little more grounded. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Renita Jablonski introduces us to the woman who helped start it all:
Sister Mary Shrader drives to work every day in a Honda Civic. It runs
on natural gas. When she pulls into the campus of the Sisters of St.
Joseph, she parks right in front of two compressed natural gas fueling pumps. With a flip of her gray hair, she gets ready to refuel.
“This is very easy and it’s very convenient to come in to work, plug your car in, and when you come out, it’s all filled. (sound of plug being put into car) In a few seconds, the compressor will kick in.”
(sound of compressor)
The Sisters of St. Joseph have 12 CNG cars so far. They’re members of the Northeast Ohio Clean Fuels Coalition. The addition of alternative fuel vehicles to their fleet was one of Shrader’s first projects when she was elected to
the congregation’s leadership council five years ago. That’s when the sisters
first adopted a resolution to pursue unity with the earth.
Shrader entered the convent when she was 17. It was 1960. She says back then, the congregation’s teachings often considered the natural world separate from the spiritual world.
“But they are, they’re totally integrated and the respect that you get from
your spirituality flows into the earth entities and Earth gives us the awe and the inspiration.”
Before coming to the Cleveland diocese, Shrader worked in Alaska in the Diocese
of Fairbanks. It’s when she first started to realize that environmental work was
her true calling.
“I’ve always wanted to live in the country, I’ve always wanted to be with animals and well, I got there and it was not exactly as I had envisioned it because much of the
economy of the state is run on oil business and on military and on tourism.”
Before she knew it, Shrader found herself joining an environmental group,
doing work opposing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As an
English teacher, she made it a point to teach Thoreau’s Walden to get her students to think about their relationship with nature. And now, she’s leading her sisters in Cleveland on a very green path. Shrader’s latest project is a wind power study.
Last week, Green Energy Ohio installed a 130-foot wind energy-monitoring tower on the congregation grounds.
“We have done an energy audit so that we can lower the amount of energy that we use, and use it more efficiently.
They’ve also met with a consultant to evaluate every product used on site to make sure everything’s earth-friendly. Shrader is trying to integrate this environmental ethic into the sisters’ daily lives.
“I would hope we would be able to complete the educational program that we’ve
begun for residents and staff here so that they understand that this is a part of everything we do here. So no matter what area they work in, the kitchen,
maintenance, secretarial staff, health care, the priority of earth-friendly
should be a part of the decision making, the choices, and the actions that are here.”
Shrader is working with other community and religious organizations to promote
environmental awareness. The sisters are also busy reshaping their campus to become a nature trail system with special wildlife areas.
(sound of birds)
They’ve already applied to be an official bird sanctuary.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Renita Jablonski.
(natural sound fades out)