Gathering Waters Honors the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration with Wisconsin’s 2020 Land Legacy Award

A picturesque view from the top of a hill of Wisconsin countryside.

On Friday, October 23, 2020, Mike Carlson, executive director of Gathering Waters, and Carol Abrahamzon, executive director of Mississippi Valley Conservancy, presented Sister Eileen McKenzie, president of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA), with the Land Legacy Award during a socially-distanced observance on FSPA land on St. Joseph Ridge, just outside of La Crosse.

The Land Legacy Award recognizes organizations whose extraordinary generosity and philanthropic leadership through direct-financial support has significantly benefited land conservation in Wisconsin.

The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration displayed the dedication and care for creation that fit definition. Their support of Mississippi Valley Conservancy’s efforts to protect land and water resources in La Crosse and the Driftless Area shows their dedication and mission to caring for creation through advocacy and social change, while modeling sustainability and healthy lifestyles.

“The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration generously supports Mississippi Valley Conservancy each year,” said Executive Director Carol Abrahamzon. “Because of their dedication to stewardship of the land and water around us, they have risen to the call for special project support as well. This level of support gives Mississippi Valley Conservancy the ability to continue to protect and care for the land in this unique region.”

“The Sisters also open their private property for our ‘Hiking, Growing, and Gazing’ event every year. This event allows the public to tour the bountiful garden that provides food for the Sisters living in the Villa retirement home. It allows our supporters to learn about the land restoration work FSPA has undertaken. The property also provides the perfect place for a clear view of our galaxy,” said Abrahamzon.

During the event, guests hike through farmland, a walnut grove, and an oak forest before arriving at a bluff overlook to take in the scenic view. The property also features a fresh-water spring and a green burial site.

The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration model the Franciscan tradition of care for creation, based on Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of Ecology. Francis of Assisi lived his life according to the Gospel and “in part to be a steward and advocate for the heavens and Earth as they reflect God’s love among us.” As part of that stewardship, the FSPA models long-range sustainability and land management plans for 200-plus acres of bluff woods and cropland.

The organization’s dedication to land management also earned them the 2019 Invader Crusader award from the Wisconsin Invasive Species Council.

The FSPA also partners with Interfaith Power & Light, an organization focusing on climate change, and the Coulee Partners for Sustainability, which works to help people live more sustainable lives. The FSPA also supports the future care of creation through an educational ministry with Viterbo University where FSPA’s agricultural internship program allows students pursuing biology and sustainable management degrees to work in the gardens.

Globally, the FSPA supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Laudato Si Pope Francis’ encyclical (letter) on environment and human ecology. These efforts promote global prosperity while protecting the planet by focusing on energy, consumption, climate action, water quality, and life on land and in water.

“We are thankful organizations like the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration support land and water protection,” said Mike Carlson, Executive Director of Gathering Waters. “We celebrate FSPA’s leadership. The organization cares deeply for the land, water, and wildlife natural resources in its care and shares that passion with others through monetary support and education while promoting social change and healthier lifestyles.”