When Brother Sun shines on the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross motherhouse in Green Bay, Wisconsin, its rays bring more than warmth and natural light. The 416 solar panels soak in the sun’s energy on the grounds of the motherhouse, an initiative spearheaded by Sister Rose Jochmann, OSF. The solar power project stems from the deep sensitivity Franciscans have for the natural world. “As Franciscans, we believe we are all part of God’s family, and we must take care of what we have received so that future generations can enjoy God’s creation,” offers Sister Rose.
Sister Rose grew up in Darboy, Wisconsin, a farming community about 30 miles southwest of Green Bay. Her love and appreciation for the outdoors has always abounded. “I remember in grade school enjoying and appreciating nature, including memories of picking spring flowers with a friend in my grandfather’s woods.”
Being taught by the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in high school inspired Sister Rose to become a Franciscan herself, following graduation, in 1961. In the field of education for nearly 20 years—first as a teacher and later as a principal—Sister Rose switched gears in the 1980s, pursuing a master’s degree in administration from the University of Notre Dame.
This led to her career as community treasurer for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross, a position she has held for 32 years. Beyond overseeing the finances of her religious community, Sister Rose has also sought to find ways to save energy and money while also protecting the environment.
A sustainability policy has been in place since 2009, which seeks to “meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” The proposal to install an array of solar panels came in 2013, with Sister Rose chairing the committee assigned to research the project’s viability and effectiveness.
After the project was approved, the panels were installed and started generating energy in June 2014. In one year, the solar array supplied 29 percent of the community’s electrical needs, saving the sisters $12,500. At that rate, the $286,000 panels will pay for themselves in about 22 years.
To educate about and promote the benefits of solar energy, a self-guided tour is open to the public. As visitors walk along the grass path, they might notice benches made from recycled milk jugs or wildflowers planted to beautify the tour. “We were not just installing the panels, but we were concerned about how we could integrate them with the natural environment,” Sister Rose observes.
The solar array was blessed this June 18, 2015, which happened to be the same day the pope released “Laudato Si’,” his encyclical on the environment. “Pope Francis stresses how everything is connected, including the environment and the economy. The way we treat our environment affects our whole world, affects all nations. How we care for creation is our future,” says Sister Rose.
There is a noticeably spiritual dimension to her love for creation and her drive to protect it. “Throughout my life, nature has continued to refresh me,” Sister Rose says. “God speaks to me in and through creation. In this way, I suppose I am a true follower of Saint Francis of Assisi.”
Stories from Our Readers: Praying with an Open Mind
Growing up as an adopted child, I always wondered who my birth mother was, what she looked like, and where she was in the world. After college, I decided to try to track her down. I searched for three years for my birth mother.
One of my cousins, who is Catholic, gave me a Saint Anthony prayer card and suggested that I pray to him for help finding her. I’m Methodist, so it felt a little foreign to me, but I thought I’d give it a try since this was so important to me. So, I prayed from my heart at least once a day for three weeks. Soon thereafter, I found my birth mother!
Saint Anthony does listen to your prayers. As it turns out, my birth mother is Catholic. I gave her my Saint Anthony prayer card as a reminder of how I found her. —Ruth Sewell, Charlotte, North Carolina
Saint Clare of Assisi: Advising the Friars
Saint Clare died 37 years after Francis of Assisi did. During that time, the friars went through many difficulties caused by tremendous growth in numbers, geographical expansion, debates over what their evangelical poverty required, and pressures from Church or civil leaders.
Through it all, Clare offered her prayers, fasts, and good advice that the friars would cooperate as generously with God’s grace as Francis had. Her cousin Rufino was one of Francis’ first followers. She led best as Francis had: by example.—P.M.