Center for Environmental Transformation: November 24, 2010

Dedicated exness to environmental transformation and environmental justice particularly in the Waterfront South neighborhood of Camden, New Jersey

First Retreat At Center !

photo of first retreat groupVillanova Retreat Group

On Sunday, November 21, 2010 19 Villanovans, including two staff people from Campus Ministry, spent a day of retreat and planning at the Center for Environmental Transformation. While at the Center, they went on a 60 minute eco-tour with Andrea Ferich, Director of Sustainability Initiatives at the CfET. Mark Doorley and Cathy Nevins, both Board members of the CfET, joined the group for lunch and talked about the genesis of the Center as well as the future programming to be available at the Center. The group had a wonderful time. One participant remarked that her visit to Camden had more impact in the six hours spent there than a whole week in Central America! This group was the first outside of Sacred Heart Church to make use of the renovated Center. Continued

Thanksgiving Letter from President

We are fast approaching Thanksgiving, the annual celebration of personal and national gratitude for the many blessings that we have received in the past year. May this note be a reminder to include all the animals, all the plants, all the mountains, and rivers, and oceans, the moon, the stars, the intergalactic gases, in your expressions of gratitude.

It is amazing how quickly nature recedes from mind when we gather around the Thanksgiving dinner table. I’m sure few of us think about the turkey that was fattened up for us; fattened up so much that toward the end of his life he couldn’t stand up because his breast was too big for his legs!

We probably don’t think about the production processes that make sure the wheat in our bread, the cranberries in our relish, the sweet potatoes, or the Idaho potatoes, or the green beans or the squash that adorn our dinner plate come to us promptly. We probably don’t think about the carbon emissions that made possible the appearance of the food on our table, or the appearance of our loved ones at our door!

When we remember how grateful we are at the blessings we receive this coming Thanksgiving, may we remember all that is involved in the lifestyle we celebrate and cherish. Nature herself is the source of much that we cherish, and so we should thank God for the gift of nature, for her bounty, and for our capacity to enjoy that bounty, and to make it available to so many people. Continued

Codfish Company

On Friday, November 12, 2010 the Connemara Codfish Company entertained 85 people gathered at Sacred Heart Church. It is a celebration of Irish folk songs and poetry from across the ages. Featuring Drucie McDaniels, the Company delighted those gathered for 2 and a half hours. One of many highlights was Drucie’s rendition of a selection from James Joyce’s Finigan’s Wake. It was wondrous! Many thanks to Drucie and her crew. All proceeds benefited the Center’s work.

An Affair of the Heart

On November 28th Sacred Heart Church is sponsoring the annual Affair of the Heart. Everything that is for sale at this Affair is handmade, works of art, or clothing, or food. There are many beautiful things available, and people get their Christmas shopping done this day. The doors of the cafeteria will be open from 9:30 – 1PM. The cafeteria is in the basement of the church. A significant percentage of all sales will go to the Center for Environmental Transformation.

Christmas Shopping

We are fast approaching that time of year when it is time to figure out the perfect gift for someone you love. Consider the following options as a wonderful Christmas gift, and a way to support the Center.

  • IT’S A TERRIBLE DAY: THANKS BE TO GOD Fr. Michael Doyle’s book, a collection of monthly letters written over the last 35 years, is a wonderful gift for someone who loves poetry and beautiful prose. $20
  • Poet of Poverty This poignant film, using words from Fr. Doyle’s letters and video from Camden City, captures the desperate challenge yet the undying hope that is our dear city. $20
  • Sponsor a Junior Farmer: The Center supports two young people from the neighborhood who assist Andrea Ferich in the maintenance of the green house and the community gardens. For $90 you can sponsor a junior farmer for two weeks.
  • Windows on the World The Center is engaged on a capital campaign to replace all the windows in the retreat house. We have replaced 13 so far, with 31 more to go. New windows will make our new air conditioning and heating units more efficient, thereby reducing our carbon footprint. For $250 you can remember a loved one with a window.

Pumpkin Pie from the Garden

Watch as we demonstrate with the Jr. Farmers how to make pumpkin pie from scratch using a butternut squash from our garden. Our Video also features a fabulous Mennonite crust-making recipe that has been passed down for generations. Click

Thomas Berry Lecture: A Reflection

by Betty Musetto, Camden, NJ

photoSr. Miriam McGillis

The second annual, sponsored by the Center for Environmental Transformation (CfET), took place on October 15th at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Camden, New Jersey. Thomas Berry, a "geologian" and widely acclaimed advocate for the environment, is “One of our lights,” spoke Mark Doorley, CfET’s chairman, as he welcomed a crowd of approximately 150 people attending.

This year, Doorley and his board were pleased to engage Sr. Miriam Mc Gillis, a Dominican nun from Caldwell, New Jersey and co-founder of Genesis Farm in Blairstown. Pat Mulligan, the evening’s emcee, told the audience that Dominican nuns taught at Sacred Heart prior to 1979, and that Genesis Farm, next to Sacred Heart, carried a special place in his heart. Mulligan called Thomas Berry “a great Passionist priest who died last year at the age of 94. He began way back to call us back to ourselves;” when Sr. Miriam first heard Berry speak, she had “found her prophet.” As the noted Berry advocate spoke, those hearing her words quickly understood why her lectures are so widely attended.

A historian, a missionary and a prophet
Sr. Miriam thanked the people of Sacred Heart for being a “people committed to place.” She then spoke of the work of Thomas Berry, a historian of world cultures and a missionary in China, who was one of the leading environmental thinkers in North America. Sr. Miriam spoke to us about how Berry changed his life after reading Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring; he wondered how it could be that good people caused such devastation of the earth. Berry studied every culture on the planet including the origin stories of the West. He found that these stories of our origin almost always included a fall from a perfect world. Originally, these stories said, the world was a perfect and beautiful place, but something happened. Whether it is the story of Adam and Eve or of Pandora’s Box, the world changed from a place of beauty to a place of death and suffering; and this changed world was abnormal, not intended in the beginning. Also, in this world of suffering, only humans had spirit. So people tried to find solace and to make meaning of the suffering; they came to believe that one day the earth would return to its normal state, a state where there is no suffering, and that humans would again live in their perfect world. Continued

The harvest of communion: Gathering souls and saints

By Andrea Ferich

I am a farmer, and I am interfaith, deeply forged by the changing seasons. During November, we remember our communion with the land, all creation, the sainthood of those who nourish us.

One might be surprised to hear that Camden, NJ is a place to find the interlocking rhythms of Mother Church and Mother Earth.

When toilets are flushed or trash is thrown away, it comes to my neighborhood in Waterfront South. This place where the land is broken and the bodies are shed are places where we must work out our theology of justice. Jesus lived accordingly so, and we follow him in communal commitments.

In autumn — when the cornstalk heads are bowed — so do our own heads as we remember the souls and the saints on our Feast Days in the beginning of Native History Month. During this time, the church remembers the community of the dead and the goodness of the saints who have gone before us. It is the gathering of the harvest of all creation. The saints carry with them the acts of mercy and liberation, devotion and healing miracles — and this strength is found in our communion together.

I recently rode a bus down to Washington, D.C....Continued

Our Wish List

  • A power weed whacker
  • Four gently used single mattresses. (No need for box mattress.)
  • An industrial grade wheel barrow
  • An office computer (desktop or laptop), preferably a Mac (capable of contemporary applications)