“Saint Francis…invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness.” – Pope Francis, Laudato Si’

LOWELL, MI (07-27-2017) – On July 27, the Laudato Si’ Sanctuary was dedicated to Mother Mary Ann Schmitz, FSE, in gratitude for her many years of caring for the land of the Franciscan Life Process Center and for being the inspiration of the project.

The dedication of the Sanctuary was the culmination of work that began in 2014. This prairie restoration project began when Joe Trenshaw met with Mother Mary Ann Schmitz to discuss possible Eagle Scout projects. After discussing several options, the two engaged Chris Baer, a member of the Grand Rapids Audubon Society and an expert on prairie restoration to help them. Joe decided to focus his efforts on the prairie and performed the initial work selecting the area, preparing the land, and gathering and planting seeds. Since then, various school groups have removed invasive plants and collected seeds to expand the prairie area. The ultimate goal is for the prairie to cover around 10 acres of Center land.

Prairies are unique habitats that are on the decline in the Midwest. “Before the advent of widespread agriculture, prairies were dominated by grasses such as big bluestem and Indian grass as well as many wildflowers,” states Mother Mary Ann. “They also supported a rich ecosystem for birds and grazing animals.”
All of the plants, including lupine, bee balm, and coneflowers, in the Laudato Si’ Sanctuary are native to Michigan, which is very important in order to encourage biodiversity and places for native birds, bees, and butterflies to thrive. In setting apart this area, Mother Mary Ann also wanted to encourage nesting and foraging areas for birds such as meadowlarks, bobolinks, and bluebirds.

The Sisters chose the name Laudato Si’ Sanctuary for several reasons. Laudato Si’ means “praised be to Thee,” the first words of St. Francis of Assisi’s, Canticle of the Sun and the title of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter on care for creation. Speaking at the dedication, Sister Damien Marie Savino, FSE, Dean of Science and Sustainability at Aquinas College, Grand Rapids, said, “A sanctuary is a sacred place and we mean this to be a place set apart for contemplation for the people who will visit, as well as a place of refuge and protection for the plants and animals that live here.”

Visitors are welcome to walk the trail through the sanctuary. Please call 616-897-7842 for more information. (Copy submitted by Franciscan Life Process Center, Lowell, Michigan; photos by Tricia Murray Donovan)