Throughout our history the Benedictine Sisters of Idaho have been involved in a wide variety of ministries. Many of the pioneer sisters served as teachers in schools. Then as the need arose they branched out into health care and pastoral work. This desire to serve others flows from living and praying together as community which is the primary ministry of Benedictines. Just as we have grown in our experience of prayer, so we have expanded our understanding of ministry.
The land purchased by the sisters when they settled in Cottonwood quickly became an integral part of our identity. This land provided stability and resources through the years and the sisters have always felt responsible for its care. But it was only in the early 1990’s that we put into words what it meant to us to own land. This ultimately became a document entitled “Philosophy of Land Use.” As we reflected on these convictions we gradually came to the realization that caring for this land was more than just something nice we did. It was indeed a ministry for which the total community was responsible to continue and, consequently, we officially voted to include care of the land as one of our corporate ministries.
When we are involved in ministry we use our resources and abilities to make a positive difference in the lives of others. People need clean water and air, nourishing food and quiet space. Caring for our land is one way we can help satisfy these needs. But there is another level to this ministry. Our planet itself is hurting and in need of healing. By loving and wisely managing these acres we can do our part to ease that pain. Yes, in the light of the total picture what we are able to contribute may seem insignificant but that does not excuse us from doing our part. The daily challenge is to remember we share this space with other living creatures as we carry out activities in our garden and orchard, the woods and pastureland.
In his encyclical letter Laudato Si’ Pope Francis says it this way: “The natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone. If we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all. If we do not, we [deny] the existence of others.” Each day we pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Being faithful to our ministry of caring for the land is our response to that invocation.