In light of the recent withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Treaty, we, Rochester Franciscans, are compelled to raise our voices in objection to that immoral action, and join with all others who continue to act in support of the treaty, including the Holy See and 194 other nations of the world. We are obligated to make a stand on behalf of the poor and most vulnerable, and act to promote the common good. It is essential that our path forward be one of engaging with the international community and to join forces in offering respect and reverence for our common home.
In addition, we sent a separate press release to our Legislators in Minnesota and Washington, DC, the Rochester Post-Bulletin, and the Diocese of Winona-Rochester’s Courier to share this information, referencing actions taken over the years, in particular:
In 2009, the Sisters of Saint Francis of Rochester, Minnesota, proclaimed “climate change endangers all of creation. Its adverse effects are especially felt by our poor brothers and sisters around the world.” (Corporate Stance, June 1, 2009) Their stance has not wavered. Since 2009, the Sisters have lived out these values by:
- Supporting tree planting projects in Cambodia and Cameroon;
- Installing solar panels at Assisi Heights, to help alleviate extra electrical usage during peak times; and
- Investing in renewable energy and ‘green’ corporations.
Who We Are: The Climate Change Working Group interacts and shares concerns with the Catholic Climate Covenant. Recently, a member of the Catholic Climate Covenant staff met with Sisters and Cojourners at Assisi Heights to encourage action on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Draft Standards on Carbon emission reductions from existing power plants.
What We Do: The Climate Change Working Group (CCWG) meets regularly, generally via conference call, to share information about climate change advocacy around the state, country and world. This Working Group is connected to the Catholic Climate Change Covenant and also to Interfaith Power and Light (IPL). The IPL is actively supported by our Sister, Joan Brown, who is the executive director of IPL in New Mexico. IPL and MN 350 chapters sponsored seven buses to take people to the Climate Change March 2014 in New York. Sister Patricia Keefe was one of those participating in the March, which drew upwards of 400,000 persons. The Rochester Climate Change Coalition was formed following the Climate Change March in New York. The Coalition holds meetings to plan events for Earth Fest week.
Solar Power at Assisi Heights
Assisi Heights is now using solar power to reduce its energy cost and any negative impact from our electrical usage on the environment. So how did all this happen in just one year?
As followers of St. Francis, Patron Saint of Ecology, care of the earth has been part of our charism and, for some of our members, it is a passion! Sisters Joan Brown and Tierney Trueman have been urging us to explore solar power for many years. In the spring of 2013, serious exploration of a “solar field” on our property began, and by the end of November, it was a reality! Selecting a company, locating the panels on our property for maximum exposure to the sun, and getting the solar panels and inverters that change solar power to electricity “up and running” was the focus from July to the end of November.
600 solar panels, mounted at a 30 degree angle, and facing south in 15 rows, are now located on our property. We have the largest “solar field” in southeastern Minnesota! At peak performance, the system can generate 150 KW (AC) of electricity per day, the amount of energy needed by about 21 homes. Our solar field has generated a lot of interest in the local area with coverage by newspapers and TV stations.
Solar energy is a “win-win” source of electricity. The rebate we received from Rochester Public Utility covered one-third of the cost, giving us a “payback” period of about 6 years. The expected life of the solar system is 30-40 years and requires little, if any, maintenance. The panels have been tested at temperatures from -40˚F to 185˚F.
- Hosted an exhibit, “The Dangers of Water Privatization” at the Public Library and Assisi Heights.
- The purchase and presentation of two DVDs: Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story, and Dirt.
- Attendance of several Sisters and Cojourners at the Nobel Peace Conference: “H2O Uncertain Resource,” in October, 2009, at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN.
- Sponsorship of the January 30, 2011, presentation, “Water, More Precious than Gold,” by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, an Associate Professor of Justice and Peace Studies at the University of St. Thomas, a graduate of St. Olaf College, an activist and an author.
- Hosted a program at Assisi Heights on April 30, 2011, “Impact of Beavers on the Ecosystem,” by Terry Lee, Water Resources Coordinator, Olmsted County. Beavers play a significant role in water conditions in our area.
- Attendance by many of our Sisters at the Art Exhibit: “Rivers of Regeneration,” Sponsored by Water Matters, a coalition in the South Zumbro Watershed, promoting sustainable water quality and quantity.
- Providing volunteer support from 24 of our Sisters at Cascade Meadows, a new Science and Education Center with a focus on restoration of wetlands.
In addition, Rochester Franciscan Sisters and Cojourners located throughout the U.S. have been involved in their own local areas. Some examples include:
- Our Sister in Montana belongs to the Northern Plains Resource Council and keeps us informed about advocacy to the Montana legislature regarding the process of Hydraulic Fracturing Mining, which is detrimental to the water supply.
- A sub-committee of our Justice and Peace Committee, known as the Mountaintop Removal Working Group, notifies us of issues related to water in Appalachia. This method of mining is exploiting the people, the land and water.
Our new landlords realize, at a deep level, that spirituality and practice must meet in creating a legacy for their children and other children. Our gifted new partnership opens up greater collaboration, to include solar panels, water harvesting systems, gardening and networking with others who are growing food to create distribution markets in the North Valley, and so much more than we can imagine.
Recently, we were part of a group that won a 4 year-lawsuit against Los Alamos National Labs for violation of the U.S. Clean Water Act.