Engaged Eco-Elders at The Sarah Community

Bridgeton, MO

By Sister Maxine Pohlman, SSND, Director, La Vista Ecological Learning Center

(Thanks to Fr. Seamus Finn, OMI, for bringing this article to our attention)

Residents of the Sarah Community

In September 2023, I represented La Vista Ecological Learning Center at The Sarah Community, a retirement residence in Bridgeton, Missouri. Leadership listened to residents desiring to become environmentally active, and so I was invited to share some of the activities of La Vista and how these might be carried out at their facility.

This residence is the home of several Congregations of “retired” religious women. With a little encouragement, they organized themselves into three groups and started meeting regularly. They established a recycling program, prayer opportunities, and educational programs. In May, just eight months later, I revisited them and learned of their accomplishments which are amazing. I am sharing the outstanding work of the education group which impacted the entire facility.

These five sisters from four different Congregations showed monthly films for the entire house, and often up to 40 people participated. They shared with the Activities Director that they preferred educational documentaries over entertainment videos, and they gave her well-researched suggestions. They followed each film with discussion and plans for action. Here is a sampling of their offerings.

After viewing the Eating Our Way to Extinction about plastics in our food, and Plastic People about the threat of microplastics on human health, they met with representatives from Food Service. They shared an infographic from the American Heart Association on plant-based protein sources, asking that these options be offered in the dining room, saying that they also prefer roasted food to “creamated “! They reported that they have seen more of these options since then on the menu. They also discouraged use of styrofoam and other plastics in the dining room. Food Service has also begun to listen to these requests.

The group’s next goal is to meet with representatives from Republic, the waste disposal company, to request a way to recycle the abundant cardboard that they see being used at their facility. There is no grass growing under the feet of these engaged eco-elders. Reflecting on the accomplishments of this team, one Sister commented, “This has been a fantastic contribution to the entire residence, changing our bodies and our souls!” Amen, Sisters!!!