St. Anne's Nuns Go The Eco-friendly Way

BANGALORE: (SAR) No soft drinks, no water containers on long journeys, no plastic carry-bags for shopping!

Sounds like a hoarse cry of the non-governmental activists or a government advert on an awareness drive? No, it's our own Sisters of Charity of St. Anne, Bangalore, who have ardently begun practising an eco-friendly lifestyle promoting harmony in God's Creation.

The Anne's Convent at Cox Town houses a juniorate (formation house) and a community of the nuns.

Junior mistress of the convent, Sister Carmel, who sows the seeds of love for Nature in the young aspiring nuns, says: "We encourage our sisters to be nature-friendly. We nurture love towards Nature and foster it through practical experiences. Each nun is given a patch of garden to plant and tend to it everyday."

A small garden with a statue of the Blessed Mother Mary in the middle has a wide variety of fauna collected by the nuns during house visits and flower shows, she says.

The nuns use ball pens instead of fountain pens, polythene bags and not plastic bags, and natural flowers instead of artificial flowers in the chapel.

Common toothpaste and coconut oil are collectively used to reduce the increase of non-biodegradable waste. The water is recycled for different purposes. Soaked water is used for toilet and house-cleaning, and the water from the washing machine is channelled to the garden.

The superior of the community, Sister Victoria, says: "We encourage the sisters to talk to children during catechism classes (about environment) to write articles to our publication, Nourished to Nourish - a private circulation - to educate people on ecology."

The St. Anne's nuns have been quite active spreading the message on the benefits of environment protection. They have expressed their appreciation and criticism as well on the issue, at different intervals.

Sister Sheetal says, "When we first became aware of the creation of special economic zones, which were depriving the poor farmers of their livelihood and converting cultivatable land into barren land, we showed our protest by writing letters to the then prime minister, the then chief minister of West Bengal, Ms. Sonia Gandhi (who was then the president of the currently ruling United Progressive Alliance at the Centre), and the manager of the Tata company."

"At the same time, we also wrote a letter of appreciation to Ms. Medha Patkar (a popular environmental activist), for her relentless effort and struggle to protect water in favour of the poor and helpless," adds Sister Mayuri.

The convent also fosters love for Nature in others. Says Sister Agatha, "On the feast days, birthdays and other occasions, we gift saplings to our well-wishers and friends. We also distribute 100 saplings to our nursery and creche children on our feast days."

The community celebrates the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron of ecology, as the Environment Day, on the 4 of October. "On that day, we wear badges displaying a 'Save the Earth' logo, organise talks and offer special prayers, stressing on the need to protect Nature," says Sister Cecily.

Sister Carmel, who feels that the knowledge and practice of 'Green Formation' is essential in every religious community, says, "We are part of the Creation. Every religious (person) should make the world a better place to live in. We need to contribute in our own little ways our mite to protect the Earth. We also need to live an exemplary life. For, words become empty, but example stands."

- by Sunny Richard John