BENSON, Vt. (CNS) — At Mercy Farm in Benson, Mercy sisters are creating a place where people can experience peace and quiet and a sense of contemplation, reverence and care for the earth.
Here the importance of the earth and its care are emphasized, and visitors are encouraged to find ways they can care for it: organic gardening, recycling, composting, using solar power and reusing, for example.
Here visitors can experience God in creation; one college student returned to her Catholic faith after a visit to the farm.
Three Mercy sisters live on the farm that was once Lumen Christi retreat center and before that a Benedictine residence: Sister Elizabeth Secord has been at the farm since 2013 and is the program manager; Sister Holly Cloutier, the farm manager, as been here since 2010; and Sister Mary Quinn, the business manager, has lived here since 2013.
Here in the quiet, “God has a chance to get through,” Sister Secord told Vermont Catholic, the magazine of the Diocese of Burlington.
There is a plaque in the farm kitchen that reads, “Let us be silent that we may hear the whisper of God.”
Officially known as Mercy Ecology Inc. at Mercy Farm, it offers self-directed and directed retreats; group rentals, including recovery retreats and yoga; school programs including the Classroom Around Us and Human Impact on the Landscape; liturgical programs; and farm experiences, like preparing gardens, planting and stacking wood. Staff members also help visitors design their own programs on topics such as canning, bread-making and quilting.
The sisters care for the earth through environmental education, organic gardening and sustainable living practices that include solar energy for about 85 percent of their electric needs.
Located on 39 acres — including eight conserved acres — the farm facilities include six bedrooms and three bathrooms for guests, a chapel/meeting room, a library, an art room and quiet space. There is a bee yard with hives and a barn with 20 solar panels. Two sheep — Bailey and Dexter — and numerous egg-laying hens live on the farm that draws guests from throughout the Northeast and from as far away as the Southern states and England, Australia and Guam.
Produce from the gardens is used for guests, donated to Vermont’s Fair Haven Concerned Food Shelf and shared with neighbors.
Visitors sometimes work in the gardens.
“We help (visitors) reverence the earth and get a sense of the earth,” Sister Secord said.
Owned by the Sisters of Mercy of the Northeast for more than a dozen years, the property is now focused on ecology; “healing of the earth” is a focus of the religious order once primarily engaged in teaching and now also focused on women and children.
“We want to help people understand that the materialism and consumerism people experience causes us to be greedy,” Sister Secord said. “We want to help them understand the need to cut back on some of our consumption.”
She said that even though people have many “things,” many are still not spiritually fulfilled: “People still feel hungry and empty.”
The sisters hope to help people realize more and more that things they buy cannot fulfill them. “If you are connected to the earth, you’re fulfilled,” she said. “I see God in the Earth. I see God in all of life.”
In his encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” Pope Francis wrote: “The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God.”
Marking the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace launched a new website dedicated to the document and efforts throughout the world to put its teaching into practice.
The site — www.laudatosi.va — “witnesses not only to the impact of the encyclical, but also the creativity and generosity of the people of God everywhere in the world,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, council president.
The Sisters of Mercy, said Sister Quinn, consider care of the earth a “critical concern.”
They seek to address that concern through mercy and ecology. “Mercy is compassion” and includes “compassion for earth and all living things,” Sister Secord said.
“Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth,” the pope wrote.
People need to “get with it,” Sister Cloutier said, and realize the severity of climate change and humans’ effect on the earth.
“Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change,” the pope said.
Editors: More information about Mercy Farm is available at the website here. To arrange a visit to Mercy Farm, call (802) 537-4531.
Urban is content editor for Vermont Catholic, the magazine of the Diocese of Burlington.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103