In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, sky and sea, the two great lights, creatures of land and sea, and finally human beings. God looked upon everything that had been created and saw goodness. (adapted from Genesis 1)
While Earth Day is considered the largest secular observance in the world, believers of this sacred scripture have known for millennia that all we have and all that we need comes from God. For many years, the Catholic Church proclaimed St. Francis of Assisi as the patron of ecology. All creation spoke to St. Francis of God, its origin and its goal. As a Franciscan community we have committed ourselves to live simply and more sustainably. Examples of our sustainable choices include a more energy efficient motherhouse, land that diverts and filters water, hybrid cars, and choosing locally sourced foods as often as possible.
One of our more recent efforts has been the investment of renewable energy. In 2013 we began looking at renewable energy options. Our goal was to draw 50 percent of our usage at St. Francis Convent from a “green” form of energy. Even though gifts from generous donors and several grants were secured, the lofty goal proved to be cost-prohibitive; instead, we installed 416 panels (112 kilowatts) in 2014, which provided about 28 percent of the electricity.
In 2018, we decided to apply for solar grants again and, if received, expand our solar capacity to 50 percent. RENEW Wisconsin’s Solar For Good program, Focus on Energy, and generous donors saw value in our project. In the summer of 2019, we expanded the solar array by 280 panels (98 kilowatts), bringing the Sisters’ solar energy production to 50 percent. By Earth Day 2021 we will have avoided more than 700 tons of carbon dioxide emissions since our first panels came online seven years ago. Another way of visualizing our savings: We have offset about 103,000 gallons of gasoline.
With education as a focal ministry, we have invited people to visit our solar array and see how solar energy works. Our array features an educational path, giving visitors a chance to enjoy our prairie setting while seeing the panels up close and reading about how solar energy is produced. See our website for more information about our educational path. https://www.gbfranciscans.org/content/justice-peace/solar-energy-tour
We Sisters choose to meet our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. We have been blessed to see countless stunning sunrises and sunsets; swim and fish in cool, clean waters; hike and enjoy wildlife in tall prairie grasses and lush forests; and see a million stars on a clear, dark night. We thank God for these gifts and we work and pray for future generations to enjoy – and care for -- these gifts as much as we have.