Six years ago our convent was a lovely retreat house surrounded by several other buildings (a small chapel, large building used for the school and convent, and a dilapidated caretaker’s house). We have a total of 20 acres on this side of the road, and most of that is second- and third-growth woodlands.
Then we began to awaken to the dilemma facing humanity and the danger facing all of Earth’s communities of life — and we realized we had to add a different, extremely demanding, and urgently necessary work our already-worthy ministries of retreats, quiet days and spiritual direction.
The Earth needs us, our vision and our skills.
So about a third of the half-acre or so of manicured lawn around the retreat house was transformed to a budding (no pun intended) vegetable garden. About a fourth of that same lawn became a firepit area surrounded by four-direction posts, and the rest was allowed to return to natural meadowland. The three life-professed sisters living here at that time moved into the retreat house and the old convent was converted into a lovely guest facility.
We began an intensive period of study, learning about biodynamic farming, permaculture, food preservation, and the wisdom of the planet which brought us into existence and nourishes us daily. We studied the Universe journey from its inception, and we studied our own religious tradition’s wisdom as an incarnate reality.
We’re still studying, growing more (and more varied) foods every year, adding animal companions to deepen our biodynamism, planting trees, saving seeds and inviting others to explore what it might look like to live happily, sustainably, simply and joyfully, and to be intensely fulfilled spiritually in the process. We’re learning how to make our own vinegar, ketchup, wine, cheese, maple sugar and yogurt; we’ve learned to spin and weave, to collect rainwater and to compost everything compostable.
We’ve discovered that our liturgy and prayer are focused and informed by the ways we are finding to live in harmony with Earth, by our experience of the sacredness of the soil and water and air, by the natural abundance of Earth and the balance that upholds it all.
And more and more people are becoming interested in what we are doing here, and why. Now there are four professed sisters and four resident companions in our little band of prayers and farmers.
We have also come to realize that the old heating, plumbing and electrical systems in this 200+-year-old farmhouse need to be renovated for safety’s sake, but they also need to be designed and constructed in ways that reflect what we are learning about sustainable, wholesome practices, and which hold future generations in deep regard.
We’ve been working with architects who understand our spiritual lives as well as our efforts toward sustainable living, and as we begin to hone in on some plans, I’ll keep you posted.
What an exciting time for us all!! If you’re anywhere near Brewster NY and would like to visit us and see what’s happening here, do let us know! As time allows and funds make some of these changes possible, I’ll be taking some before and after photos and will share more of the details of our vision for this place and for the future.