The Power of Hope

By Susan Dennin, Director of Communications

This article initially appeared in the inaugural issue of our magazine, 'Sowing Goodness.' The full issue is available here.

Pervasive drought, raging wildfires, disappearing forests, and extreme weather and temperatures seem to be our reality no matter where in the world you might live. Does our changing climate cause you to wonder what you can do? Does it seem too much for one person to make a difference? In a corner of New England, gardeners as young as three are showing us that one person, no matter how small, can make an impact.

In response to Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ call to care for our common home, students and staff at Cuvilly Arts and Earth Center in Ipswich, Massachusetts, are taking a grass-roots focus on biodiversity and environmental sustainability. Guided by the impactful writings of Dr. Doug Tallamy, who espouses a garden for wildlife approach, this ministry of the SNDdeN is playing a part in revolutionizing the way people garden and landscape to benefit wildlife and communities. And the urgency to act now is critical.

The gardens of Cuvilly Arts and Earth Center, Ipswich, Mass.

"In the past, we have asked one thing of our gardens: that they be pretty. Now they have to support life, sequester carbon, feed pollinators and manage water."

Dr. Doug Tallamy

The data on environmental loss in the United States is sobering. According to Tallamy, we have turned 54% of the lower 48 states into a matrix of cities, suburbs, roads, airports, power and pipelines, shopping centers, golf courses, infrastructure, and isolated habitat fragments, with 41% more of the U.S. into various forms of agriculture.1

What is the consequence of turning 95% of the natural world into an otherworldly landscape? The direct impact is on the non-human species who require nature to survive. God’s vast array of creatures need food and shelter to thrive and reproduce, and we need the healthy biodiversity of these creatures great and small to ensure our ecosystems’ survival and our own. Without intervention, we could lose a significant portion of our pollinators by the middle of the century. Yes, this is a daunting challenge and one that will require dedication and a spirit of hope. To achieve results requires us to live out a commitment to the environment and systems through which we are all dependent. In the SNDdeN theme for the East-West Province this year, the Sisters committed to the call to Renew, Transform and Respond to the pressing needs of our society. There is no time to waste when it comes to caring for Mother Earth!

But you may ask, “What can I do while I wait for my local, state and federal government to make lasting changes?” Sister Patricia Rolinger, SNDdeN, Executive Director of Cuvilly Arts and Earth Center is helping to answer that question. Her team at Cuvilly is responding to a call to action that revolutionizes the way people garden and landscape to benefit wildlife and communities.

She has led the ministry that integrates agriculture and the arts for over 38 years through education and community programs. The Center inspires children and families to explore their innate creativity and connection to the earth. They encourage stewardship of our resources and strive to model ecological sustainability in a space that embraces their guiding principle that all life is sacred and the diversity of life is essential for the planet’s well-being.

“The human species is very resourceful and we should be able to share the world with all God’s creation.”

Sister Patricia Rolinger

An understanding of environmental issues is critical for the survival of our planet. Children especially need to experience themselves as an integral part of the natural world. By establishing pollinator gardens with native plants, they encourage the wild bees, butterflies and other pollinators to return to the land. Small gardens have been set up by the children and they regularly tend and cultivate them. Sister Pat plans for more of the surrounding acres to be returned to their natural state, and is working with experts in native plants to shepherd the multi-year process. She hopes that the land will continue to welcome native birds, wildlife and of course, pollinators.

“The human species is very resourceful and we should be able to share the world with all God’s creation,” said Sister Pat. 

If you would like to contribute to the Sisters and their ministries, click here. Your generosity allows us to continue to support the mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur U.S. East-West. 

1 – Dr. Doug Tallamy from