La Vista Ecological Learning Center Celebrates the Solstice


Photos and story by Will Shaw

Saturday June 22, was the date of the 2014 Summer Solstice and it was celebrated in fine style at the Missionary Oblate’s La Vista Ecological Learning Center in Godfrey, Illinois.

Center Director, Sr. Maxine Pohlman, SSND, planned the evening around a viewing of a documentary on the life of folk-singer, Pete Seeger, to be followed by a pot-luck supper and sing along featuring some of Seeger’s famous songs like, “This land is Your land,” “If I had a Hammer,” and  “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” She wrote, “On this longest day of the year, it is fitting that we take time to honor this man of integrity as we promote the integrity of creation.”

Pete Seeger, who died this past January 27, at the age of 94, was an iconic composer and singer, well known for his activism supporting such causes as international disarmament, civil rights and environmental awareness as well as his music.

As planned, it was to be an all outdoor evening on the beautiful grounds which are home to La Vista and the Oblate Novitiate, but Mother Nature decided to celebrate the solstice with a Midwest summer storm which moved everything into the lodge that houses the novitiate. Nevertheless, Fathers Tom Horan, Jack Lau, Rudy Nowakowski along with the novices, Paul Bwayla Kunda, Nchimunya Haakakata, and James Fernandes were perfect hosts.

After viewing the documentary, the group enjoyed a sumptuous pot-luck supper featuring a variety of international, organic and gluten-free dishes provided by the attendees (each was asked to bring a dish). Then it was onto the chapel for the sing along as the storm raged outside.

Music was provided by Michael Levine, Charlie Nesmith and Jerry Maloney, a talented group who are often found performing Irish and American folk tunes together and individually at several St. Louis-area music venues. After a number of Pete Seeger songs, the musicians invited requests. Fathers Rudy Nowakowski and Tom Horan each performed with the band as did others from the audience.

The solstice celebration was topped off by a ritual “Turning of the Sun” by Sr. Maxine and a couple of young women from the audience. Even indoors it was a splendid celebration of the solstice and remembrance of the life and work of Pete Seeger, a man committed to the music of the people and the integrity of creation.