Sister Janet McCann, ASC delivered this reflection on Sunday, July 9, at the dedication of the Lancaster Against Pipelines ‘chapel’ on Adorers of the Blood of Christ land in Columbia, Pennsylvania, under which a gas pipeline will be built.
In the name of the United States Region of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, I thank you for gracing our farmland with your presence here today.
The sisters and I at DeMattias Residence were talking about this reflection at dinner yesterday. We thought it would be important to include scripture in the message, and they began offering passages that would be fitting for today’s dedication. In the interest of trying to give a balanced reflection, I asked their assistance in finding a passage that would go something like this:
“And God said, ‘Let corporations whose owners already have enough food to eat, enough water to drink, and enough money in the bank, continue to grow their wealth. Let them take farmland by eminent domain, and dig a big hole in the earth and install a pipeline. Then, let gas flow through the pipe, disrupting the ecosystem which I so lovingly put in place for people and animals and plants to live and grow in peace and harmony.”
The sisters did not find any such quotes, of course. This is what they found, and I believe you may be very familiar with these words from the Book of Genesis:
“And God said, “Let the water below the sky come together in one place, so that the land will appear…and it was done. God called the dry land earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called the sea. And, God said, Let the earth sprout with vegetation, plants yielding seeds…each according to its kind on the earth. Please help me with this next line:
AND GOD SAW THAT IT WAS GOOD!”
When the Adorers established a presence here in Columbia in the 1920s, working the land was part of their daily existence. The courageous and committed women on whose shoulders we stand today would not have survived were it not for the gift and the bounty of this land. This ground is seeped with their love and their sacrifices. Our spirits and our hearts are permeated with their legacy of responsible stewardship for this land.
When St. Maria DeMattias founded our congregation in 1834, she spoke of our call to help “bring about that beautiful order of things.”
As Adorers, we believe that “beautiful order” happens when we reverence and respect creation. We “bring about that beautiful order of things” when our decision-making and our influence honor our interconnectedness and oneness with all creation.
As religious women of the Catholic Church, our faith impels us to stand up when the principles we hold sacred are compromised on the very land that is ours. When the very land on which we stand is in danger of being exploited, we must stand up to the misuse of power and influence. This is not a political statement but a spiritual stand as people of faith.
Perhaps you heard about the very confident and very arrogant scientist who decided to challenge God in a contest to see who could create a human being the fastest. God accepted the challenge, came down to earth, along with St. Peter, to serve as timekeeper. “On your mark, get set, Go!” The arrogant scientist and God immediately reached down to the ground to gather up a handful of dirt. Before the scientist could gather another handful, however, God stopped him and said, “Oh, no you don’t. If you’re gonna’ create your own human, then first you gotta’ create your own dirt!”
The Land Ethic you heard today acknowledges that God is the source of all creation, and especially all this dirt. The Land Ethic was written by and proclaimed by Adorers, but we firmly believe it belongs to all of us gathered here today as we dedicate this land and witness to the holiness of this sacred space.
The mission statement of the Adorers calls us to live in right relationship.
When we are deeply aware that we belong to each other, and that we live in relationship to each other, we call one another to be our best selves. Today, we are helping each other to be brave and to make decisions focused on the common good, and for our Common Home, which is what Pope Francis calls this amazing planet given to us by God.
Thank you for adding your love and your sacrifices in this endeavor. We are especially honored to have our Sisters of Loretto with us today. Thank you for traveling these many miles to express your solidarity and commitment. We are grateful to Mark and Malinda Clatterbuck and the tireless work of the members of Lancaster Against Pipelines. Your witness, your courage, and your commitment to protecting this sacred land continues to inspire us and gives us hope. We brag about you often to anybody who will listen…and even to those who don’t! Thanks to each of you present here for helping to “bring about that beautiful order” to this place we call home.
[…] The sisters say their protest is a religious one and the pipeline violates one of their ethics, which names the Earth as a sanctuary to be revered. […]
I want the Sisters to know that I support your efforts and your reverence for our land and earth. The pipeline is another misuse of our land and threat to our homes. We have a moral responsibility to protect the environment we pass to our children. The pipeline is no different than the blight of strip mines and just as potentially damaging to our environment.
Sisters I respect your concern for the earth but as a catholic and an engineer I see a much bigger picture. As a catholic we are called on to respect all life even people in India or Virginia. Your protest may well delay this pipeline. Are you willing to accept the deaths of innocent people when the power goes off. The EPA regs shutdown a lot of coal power plants. The only replacement is natural gas and that takes pipelines. What are you doing to help children in India & China that have poisoned air? My parish priest is from India and and he told me that natural gas from the USA is helping to clean up their air. We can talk about wind and solar. I don’t see clean energy I see dead Chinese from the radioactive ponds created to build these energy sources. I challenge you to pray for wisdom and the courage to seek and face truth. I will be happy to visit any time. Lives are important!