A Seamless Garment of Eco-Justice: Green Sisters in Kansas
Myslivy, Rachel Ann Boeckman
University of Kansas
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Catholic sisters fuse long-standing, creation-oriented theology, the new story presented by science, and Catholic social justice teachings into a seamless garment of social justice and solid activism. Sisters shaped the landscape of the United States through the creation of a vast network of schools, hospitals, and orphanages. While not as visible as the black-robed nuns of the past, sisters are still at the forefront of social change, standing up for the `least of all people,' and filling the needs of society. As the global ecological crisis worsens, Catholic sisters heed the call to expand social justice to include all of creation. Convents across the country are converting grounds into organic gardens, adopting land ethics, and establishing earth-centered ministries. This thesis will focus particularly on one group of Catholic sisters in small-town Kansas who extend an ethic of non-violence to all of creation and who strive to treat all - including the earth - as "Dear Neighbor." The development of the ecological awareness of these women emerged as a result of complex social movements, dedicated networks, and faith in an ever-changing church. To present the process clearly, I will provide a brief characterization of women religious in the United States, the development of the environmental movement, the activism of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and finally the environmental activism of the Sisters of St. Joseph at the Nazareth Convent and Academy in Concordia, Kansas. Narrative accounts of the journey toward ecological awareness fill out this idealistic framework into a well-rounded, realistic approach to eco-justice in the Heartland.
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