Mercy Farm in Vermont Bears Fruit
Biological diversity or “biodiversity” means the variety of all life forms on Earth. We as human beings are an integral part of biodiversity and we can influence it in a positive or negative way. Biodiversity provides us with food, fuel, medicines and other essentials that we simply cannot live without and is a critical component of the services that nature provides free of charge to all of human society. In the words of Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, “biodiversity underpins the functioning of the ecosystems on which we depend for food and fresh water, health and recreation, and protection from natural disasters. Its loss also affects us culturally and spiritually. This may be more difficult to quantify, but is nonetheless integral to our wellbeing.” It is generally accepted that we all have a moral duty to endeavour to look after the planet and its habitats and species.
The Sisters of Mercy in Benson, Vermont must have borne this in mind when they transformed their thirty nine acres of land into a centre for sustainability and simple living. Sisters Holly Cloutier and Leslie Porreca set up the Mercy Farm to offer a space of hospitality in the beauty of a natural environment for individuals, families and groups. As a working farm and an Eco-Spiritual centre, Mercy Farm developed an organic vegetable garden which consists of twelve raised beds growing a variety of vegetables, berries and herbs. The produce from these gardens support the food for house guests as well as the local needs of the community, when available.
Mercy Farm is a wonderful example of how relationship building with neighbours and local groups can create a true community centre. Holly and Leslie believe in creating a sustainable source for local food and have been exploring the feasibility of organic farming, food production, distribution and preservation, bee- keeping, alternative energy sources, land conservation and reforestation. “This being our first growing season we will be expanding the farmed space with the use of a Hoop House in the very near future along with obtaining chickens and goats to help create a balanced bio - diverse environment. The focus of this farm is to provide an opportunity for persons to come and be in the beauty of nature, to learn ways of re connecting to the natural world through sustainable practices for Earth and self”.
Mercy Farm is called an Eco-Spiritual Centre because coming to know the relationship to nature is a spiritual practice, one that interacts with all of our senses and is an example of how to act in “harmony and interdependence with all creation”. A spiritual practice invites the individual to contemplate and engage in the world in an intentional way of being that is dedicated to developing an ever more insightful, mature relationship with self and the world in a way that is profoundly meaningful, fulfilling, and joyous.
Mercy Constitution invites us to “act in harmony and interdependence with all creation; and call ourselves to continual conversion in our lifestyles and ministries”. As members of Earth community we commit ourselves to the following principals and actions:
- Relationship with the Earth, all life forms are sacred.
- Each human being is a unique and integral part of Earth’s community of life and has a special responsibility to care for life in all its diverse forms.
- Therefore, we will act and live in a way that preserves the natural processes of Earth and respect all species and their habitats. We will work to prevent ecological degradation
Remembering that environmental and climate concerns are an integral part of Catholic social teaching, Pope John Paul II offered two ways forward: ecological conversion and ecological vocation. Human beings do not rank above nature but are part of it. They need it in order to live, just as nature needs them to look after it like good parents. Mercy Farm at Lumen Christi is a response to the critical issues facing earth and epitomises this ideal. As both a working farm and a space for contemplation, Marcy Farm guests have an opportunity to accept their place in the Universe and to discover sacred practices of body, mind and spirit that invite them to live responsibly as a member of the Earth community.