The Felician Sisters of North America's recent installation of 774 solar panels on their property in Buffalo, is part of the Felician Sisters of North America's nationwide solar power project that includes a series of such solar installations at six Felician Sisters' sites across the country.
In Buffalo, the panels were installed on the rooftops of three buildings: Villa Maria College's Felician Hall and the athletic center, and the central convent. To date, they have produced over 209 megawatts of energy and avoided over 125 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
The Felician Sisters' nationwide initiative includes additional solar installations at Felician convents and Felician-sponsored ministries in Livonia, Mich.; Lodi, N.J.; Chicago; Coraopolis, Pa.; and the Beaver Falls, Pa.-based provincial house of the Felician Sisters, the administrative and canonical center for the nearly 600 Felician Sisters across North America.
Total power generation from all combined sites will produce an estimated 2.1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity in the first year of operation. The nationwide project is expected to avoid more than 83 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over its 35-year operating life - the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions from burning more than 2 million pounds of coal every year for 35 years.
Care for the earth, a cornerstone of the Felician Sisters' core values and central to the centuries-old Felician Franciscan tradition, propelled this project more than two years in the making.
"The Felician Sisters serve as prophetic witness to a world in need of healing - the poor and marginalized of our society as well as the very earth which sustains us," said Sister Mary Christopher Moore, CSSF, provincial minister, Our Lady of Hope Province. "Our Holy Father depicts an increasingly impoverished environment in his encyclical, 'Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home' saying, 'The earth herself burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of the poor ... We have forgotten that we are ourselves dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.'"
Sister Christopher noted, "Our solar project is a highly visible witness of our commitment to be responsible stewards of creation. This project not only embodies Catholic social teaching, it also embodies our moral obligation to care for the earth now as well as for our common future."
Felician Provincial Sustainability Coordinator Sister Mary Jean Sliwinski, CSSF, added that the sisters have historically been committed to environmental justice and are actively making an effort to lessen their dependence on fossil fuels by integrating new sources of sustainable energy. She cited currently existing projects such as the sisters' installation of solar panels for water heating in convents in Pennsylvania, Illinois and New Mexico; the creation of a LEED-certified convent and high school in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, the installation of geo-thermal heating in Buffalo; and the preservation of green space on their properties.
"This solar power project represents the next chapter in our ongoing efforts to care for and repair the earth," Sister Jean said. "The vast scope of this project represents a new level of commitment by the sisters, enabling us to sustainably generate a significant amount of electricity. An initiative that helps protect the environment, it is also a wonderful opportunity to educate the larger community about renewable energy."
The Felician Sisters hope that their commitment to this nation-wide project will inspire others to act in the Franciscan tradition of care for the environment.
The Felician Sisters of North America are a Franciscan congregation of women religious inspired by the spiritual ideals of their foundress, Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska, and St. Francis of Assisi. Devoted to the Blessed Mother and centered in the Eucharist, the sisters are a contemplative-active community. Their prayer life nurtures, energizes and guides them to actively serve the needs of all God's people in an array of diverse and far-reaching ministries. To read more about the Felician Sisters of North America, go to feliciansistersna.org.