Green Sisters: A Spiritual Ecology

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Overview

Listen to a short interview with Sarah McFarland Taylor
Host: Chris Gondek | Producer: Heron & Crane

It is perhaps the critical issue of our time: How can we, as human beings, find ethical and sustainable ways to live with one another and with other living beings on this planet? Inviting us into the world of green sisters, this book provides compelling answers from a variety of religious communities.

Green sisters are environmentally active Catholic nuns who are working to heal the earth as they cultivate new forms of religious culture. Sarah Taylor approaches this world as an "intimate outsider." Neither Roman Catholic nor member of a religious order, she is a scholar well versed in both ethnography and American religious history who has also spent time shucking garlic and digging vegetable beds with the sisters. With her we encounter sisters in North America who are sod-busting the manicured lawns around their motherhouses to create community-supported organic gardens; building alternative housing structures and hermitages from renewable materials; adopting the "green" technology of composting toilets, solar panels, fluorescent lighting, and hybrid vehicles; and turning their community properties into land trusts with wildlife sanctuaries.

Green Sisters gives us a firsthand understanding of the practice and experience of women whose lives bring together Catholicism and ecology, orthodoxy and activism, traditional theology and a passionate mission to save the planet. As green sisters explore ways of living a meaningful religious life in the face of increased cultural diversity and ecological crisis, their story offers hope for the future--and for a deeper understanding of the connections between women, religion, ecology, and culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Sojourners

In this absorbing and comprehensive study of the "greening of religion" in Catholic religious communities, Taylor takes the reader on a tour of everything from a biodynamic farm in New Jersey to a community garden in inner-city Detroit that replaced a burned-down crack house...[She] gives a stirring account of how Catholic religious communities long committed to social justice and peace have come to connect with environmental concerns and ecological activism...[Taylor] offers a very helpful critique of agribusiness that monopolizes seed distribution worldwide and of the bioengineering that renders seeds sterile, and she describes the myriad ways in which these sisters are confronting our planetary crisis—from greening their vows to speaking out at a General Electric shareholders meeting. The text may be packed with facts and footnotes, but its author—and the women she quotes—are clearly passionate about their convictions, and sometimes funny...Green Sisters is an academic work of wide-ranging research and scholarship, but it should appeal to any reader who is interested in environmental activism, nature mysticism, social justice, feminism, Catholicism, or monasticism. It makes an important contribution both to contemporary American religious history and to women's religious history.
— Margaret Bullitt-Jonas

Toronto Star

A fascinating book.
— Stephen Scharper

Choice

This book discusses how green sisters are "re-in-habiting" sustainable practices as an expression of ecological conviction and religious devotion. It is an account of the greening religious vows modeling sustainability, cultivating diversity, conserving the past, and offering sanctuaries of countercultural reverence for the earth.
— R. A. Boisclair

Catholic News Service

Green Sisters: A Spiritual Ecology, [is] Sarah McFarland Taylor‘s extensive look at how several communities of religious women throughout the U.S. have linked the soil with the sacred. In other words, their service to the people of God is rooted in the land they occupy. How deeply the assistant professor in the religion department at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., delved into her topic is indicated by the on-site observation, participation and interviews with some of the “green” sisters, as well as extensive electronic communication with those whose companion planting of religious life and respect for the earth have given another dimension to religious life. Those who ask “What is the church doing about the environment?” will find a detailed story of faith told with the right balance of the nuns’ own words and background provided by the author. Together, they narrate a recent, but important, chapter in U.S. church history.
— Brian Olszewski

Roger S. Gottlieb
What a delightful book! Intelligent, informative, enlightening and engagingly written. A sophisticated treatment of the intellectual issues is combined with a passionate concern for the real world. The result is that very rare academic work which is both true to its subject and genuinely hopeful.
Catherine A. Brekus
This is a superb, beautifully written book about Catholic sisters' involvement in the environmental movement. Taylor is not only an expert ethnographer who offers crucial insights into modern American religion, but a wonderful storyteller.
Robert A. Orsi
This is one of the best books I have read on the lives and work of Catholic nuns in the United States after the Second Vatican Council. The book makes an essential contribution to the history of Catholic social justice and of American nuns. It is an inspiring call to service on behalf of our endangered planet.
Sojourners - Margaret Bullitt-Jonas
In this absorbing and comprehensive study of the "greening of religion" in Catholic religious communities, Taylor takes the reader on a tour of everything from a biodynamic farm in New Jersey to a community garden in inner-city Detroit that replaced a burned-down crack house...[She] gives a stirring account of how Catholic religious communities long committed to social justice and peace have come to connect with environmental concerns and ecological activism...[Taylor] offers a very helpful critique of agribusiness that monopolizes seed distribution worldwide and of the bioengineering that renders seeds sterile, and she describes the myriad ways in which these sisters are confronting our planetary crisis--from greening their vows to speaking out at a General Electric shareholders meeting. The text may be packed with facts and footnotes, but its author--and the women she quotes--are clearly passionate about their convictions, and sometimes funny...Green Sisters is an academic work of wide-ranging research and scholarship, but it should appeal to any reader who is interested in environmental activism, nature mysticism, social justice, feminism, Catholicism, or monasticism. It makes an important contribution both to contemporary American religious history and to women's religious history.
Toronto Star - Stephen Scharper
A fascinating book.
Choice - R. A. Boisclair
This book discusses how green sisters are "re-in-habiting" sustainable practices as an expression of ecological conviction and religious devotion. It is an account of the greening religious vows modeling sustainability, cultivating diversity, conserving the past, and offering sanctuaries of countercultural reverence for the earth.
Catholic News Service - Brian Olszewski
Green Sisters: A Spiritual Ecology, [is] Sarah McFarland Taylor‘s extensive look at how several communities of religious women throughout the U.S. have linked the soil with the sacred. In other words, their service to the people of God is rooted in the land they occupy. How deeply the assistant professor in the religion department at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., delved into her topic is indicated by the on-site observation, participation and interviews with some of the “green” sisters, as well as extensive electronic communication with those whose companion planting of religious life and respect for the earth have given another dimension to religious life. Those who ask “What is the church doing about the environment?” will find a detailed story of faith told with the right balance of the nuns’ own words and background provided by the author. Together, they narrate a recent, but important, chapter in U.S. church history.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674024403
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah McFarland Taylor is Associate Professor of Religion at Northwestern University.
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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations     viii
Preface     ix
Introduction: Planetary Call and Response     1
The Green Catholic Imagination: Varieties of Companion Planting     22
Standing Their Ground: From Pioneering Nuns to Bioneering Sisters     52
It Isn't Easy Being Green: Habitat, Habits, and Hybrids     78
"Changeless and Changing": Engaged Monasticism in the Ecozoic Era     115
Nourishing the Earthbody: Sacramental Foodways and Culinary Eucharist     161
"The Tractor Is My Pulpit": Sacred Agriculture as Priestly Practice     183
Saving Seeds: Heirloom Conservation and Genetic Sanctuaries     210
Stations of the Earth: Body Prayer, Labyrinths, and Other Peripatetic Rituals     231
Conclusion: Stepping into the Future     260
Critical Mass: Earth Ministries in the United States and Canada     289
Notes     293
Acknowledgments     351
Index     353
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