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2022 Catholic Sisters Week

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

Catholic Sisters Week shines a light on the spirituality, mission, and community building of women religious.

This year, the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago along with many other Congregations of Catholic Sisters will highlight our work invested in Caring for the Earth and Laudato Si. Join us on all our social media platforms as we share the stories of our Sisters, Oblates, Alumnae, and Friends and the many ways they Care for the Earth.

In 2016 Sister Pat Coughlin, OSB was invited by Sr. Terrri MacKenzie, SHCJ to join a team of people who were writing homily helps for priests who wanted to preach about Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si. The project was launched by Fr. Michael Agliardo, SJ, then a professor of sociology at Loyola University Chicago, now a research scholar at Santa Clara University and the executive director of the United States Catholic Bureau. The idea came up in an ecology and faith group at the 2015 annual conference of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests and Fr. Agliardo took it on. The group decided to ask Dan Misleh, the founding director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, to post the homily helps on the Catholic Climate Covenant website (, and Mr. Misleh agreed to do so.

The homily helps include a commentary that points out the ecological and spiritual links between the scripture readings for the Sunday and passages in Laudato Si that correspond to and amplify the message of the scripture. Relevant scripture passages are highlighted as are sections from Laudato Si that fit the commentary and the scripture. Two petitions that carry out the theme of the Sunday are included. Bulletin blurbs containing environmental tips are posted elsewhere on the web site.

READ the full article "Laudato Si and Ecological Conversion" by Sister Pat Coughlin, OSB found in the SUMMER/FALL 2020 Sacro Speco. Sacro Speco is the biannual magazine of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago.

"I realized after teaching for a total of 25 years, that I would now become involved in jobs at the Priory," shares Sister Rita Nowak, OSB.

"Eventually, as with all of us, I can identify the origins of many of my beliefs in regard to nature. It’s really kind of fun to recognize that experiences in my life have shaped my belief in nature now. And, of course, people in my life were part of all this. And so, I began to see our grounds as a source of growth for us, a place where we can watch and learn how nature works. We can grow more attuned to the living energy of creation. We can become respectful of the rhythms of nature and help to provide conditions for growth, knowing that we are part of this web of life."

READ the full article "Our Grounds: A Source of Growth" by Sister Rita Nowak, OSB found in the SUMMER/FALL 2020 Sacro Speco. Sacro Speco is the biannual magazine of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago.

"Sometime in 1987 Sr. Mary Benet McKinney, Prioress, asked that I be responsible for the flowers, as needed, for services in our Chapel. Fortunately, Sr. Agnes Kelly, an avid gardener, gave me a pamphlet advertising an American-style flower arranging class to be held weekly at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, IL. So, I began taking four classes on Wednesday mornings beginning on January 27, 1988.

As a follow-up to the initial classes, I attended four evening sessions at the Garden the following September, where I was introduced to Ikenobo Ikebana (the Japanese practice of flower arrangement) by Sensei (teacher) Ikka Nakashima. I was honored to have Sensei invite me to continue Ikebana classes in her home in Chicago where she also taught Japanese Classical Dance, Tea Ceremony, and Calligraphy...

For me, this design symbolizes life. We derive our strength from God - the source - yet we, like the branched stems, are distinctly created by God; no two are alike.”

READ the full article “Less is best!”: The Art of Ikebana" by Sister Patti Cielinski, OSB found in the SUMMER/FALL 2021 Sacro Speco. Sacro Speco is the biannual magazine of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago.

The late Sister Agnes Kelly, OSB had a great love for gardening. She enjoyed both indoor and outdoor plants. Sister Agnes encouraged her family to make use of the Monastery Gardens. Her Great Niece, Maga, continues to garden at St. Scholastica Monastery today!

"At the beginning of Covid, while my daughter was out of school, we decided to visit as many forest preserves as possible in a 90-minute radius. She would pick the bark off fallen trees to look for bugs and dig around in the leaf litter and I downloaded an app called Seek that identifies, plants, trees, insects, and animals.

It ended up rekindling my love for nature and filled me with wonder and curiosity. I started researching ecological opportunities in Chicago and discovered the Notebaert Nature Museum's Chicago Conservation Corps Sustainability Leadership program. We learned about waste management, water systems, citizen science, recycling, circular economies, and a lot of other stuff.

For the final assignment, they give you $250 towards a sustainability project in your neighborhood. My friend Laura and I decided to build a rooftop garden on one of the homeless shelters for women and children our church owns.

I also started volunteering with the Cook County Forest Preserves as a wildlife monitor."

Oblate Tammy Perlmutter

St. Scholastica Academy, Chicago took special care to teach earth and environmental sciences over the years to hundreds of students. This River Trip was an opportunity for Biology and Chemistry students to run field experiments on the North Branch of the Chicago River.

Close up of the 2007 yearbook collage of the annual River Trip.

At 108, Sister Vivian Ivantic, OSB still manages to find time to wheel herself outside to the Monastery Gardens and feed the squirrels. Sister Vivian took up this ministry from the late Sister Mercedes.

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