St. John Vianney 7th Grade Retreat

SJV 7th Grade Retreat

We had a wonderful Wednesday with the 7th grade class of St. John Vianney at Schoenstatt Retreat Center. Laudato Si’ Project has partnered with Marquette University High School and St. John Vianney for our Common Home Explorer Program. We were privileged to work with St. John Vianney’s youth minister, Claire Hoffmeyer, in the planning of the retreat which had a focus on prayer, relationships, and stewardship.

The morning started with Mass and witness talks by SJV pastor Fr. Miniatt and MUHS student/SJV graduate Phil Volkert. Students were split into groups to discuss prayer, trust, and relationships. Students then took part in a skit about St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Creation. This was used as a springboard into our afternoon which focused on Care for our Common Home.

The afternoon activity included a reflective group walk up to our woodland restoration site. Students helped with our ongoing project by removing and stacking invasive buckthorn trees. The amount of work that 34 motivated 7th graders can do is truly amazing. Temperatures in the high 40’s didn’t seem to negatively impact this group at all. We finished the afternoon by hiking a trail that loops much of the beautiful retreat center property.

Here is a brief video clip showing our land stewardship.

Canticle of Creation: St. Francis of Assisi

O Most High, all-powerful, good Lord God, to you belong praise, glory, honor and all blessing.

Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation and especially for our Brother Sun, who brings us the day and the light; he is strong and shines magnificently.
O Lord, we think of you when we look at him.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Moon, and for the stars which you have set shining and lovely in the heavens.

Be praised, my Lord, for our Brothers Wind and Air and every kind of weather by which you, Lord, uphold life in all your creatures.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Water, who is very useful to us, and humble and precious and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Fire, through whom you give us light in the darkness: he is bright and lively and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Earth, our Mother, who nourishes us and sustains us,
bringing forth fruits and vegetables of many kinds and flowers of many colors.

Be praised, my Lord, for those who forgive for love of you; and for those who bear sickness and weakness in peace and patience – you will grant them a crown.

Be praised, my Lord, for our Sister Death, whom we must all face. I praise and bless you, Lord, and I give thanks to you, and I will serve you in all humility.

Butterfly Garden Planting

We had an incredible afternoon Friday planting a butterfly garden at Milwaukee IMG_1946Parkside School for the Arts. We started by doing an educational program with the K-5 students about prairie, what factors shape it, and why it is important.  We discussed the role of fire in shaping this unique ecosystem, as well as, how bison and elk in WI also shaped the landscape. Students were able to feel the hides of those animals and even try on an elk antler. We also looked at the amazing roots of prairie that can go as deep as 15 feet! This helps prairies survive and benefit from wildfires and also help the plants during droughts. Students were able to lie next to a banner showing the actual size of big bluestem and lead plant roots. We talked about WI butterflies and pollinators that will benefit from the prairie planting.

We then got our hands dirty planting 150 native prairie wildflowers and mulching the area. This diverse wildflower planting will provide a nectar and pollen source for butterflies and other pollinators from May to October. Thanks to Erin Dentice and Jessica Maxwell for there leadership at Milwaukee Parkside and our amazing student volunteers from MUHS. We look forward to several planting projects with Milwaukee Parkside School for the Arts this Spring.

Check out this short video about our educational program and planting

“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”   -Mark 10:13

Fall Living Laudato Si’

This beautiful Fall weekend was truly a Living Laudato Si’ weekend. It was packed with action starting with our stewardship work day at the Schoenstatt Retreat Center. Student volunteer groups from both Cristo Rey High School and Marquette University High School helped with various projects on the Schoenstatt property. The first was the seeding of a 2 acre Oak Opening Prairie. These unique prairie ecosystems historically covered much of southern Wisconsin and have unique species that depend on them including many types of insects and birds. There are actually classified as the most endangered ecosystem type in the World (more than rainforests)! Thanks to the generosity of several donors, we were able to purchase and collect a diverse mixture of prairie wildflowers and grasses that do well in situations ranging from shade to full sun.

We mixed the seed in an old landscape pond with a filler called vermiculite. This acts as a carrier for the smaller seed and helps you to seed more evenly. The trickiest part is to ensure that your seed lasts the entirety of the site and you don’t use it up too early. To avoid this, we set up flagged grid patterns and work methodically back and forth, spreading seed evenly to ensure good coverage.

If you have visited the Schoenstatt Property and are wondering where these sites are, refer the brochure map below. This map was created this summer as part of a pamphlet given to people on retreat. The brown arrows show the 2 sites.


After seeding the prairie, we headed across the property to our woodland restoration site. It was here that we continued maintenance on our nature trail and continued with invasive species removal. See our post from an Eagle Scout who made this site his project  

On Sunday, Laudato Si’ Project was invited to give a presentation to the parish on the encyclical Laudato Si’ and how to Live Laudato Si’ everyday. After mass, parishioners were invited to a hot breakfast followed by worship music and our presentation. Some religious education classes came to the presentation including their junior class of Confirmation students (who agreed to dress as characters of St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Creation, from which Laudato Si’ gets its name: see picture below)

Feast of St. Francis of Assisi


October 4th is the feast day of St. Francis, patron saint of animals and the environment. Many of us have seen his statue adorning gardens or quite places for reflection in nature. Our current Pope took his name to reflect the need to live simply, care for the poor, and find God in His Creation. Pope Francis’ encyclical named Laudato Si’ references St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon which begins “Praised be You my Lord…” (Laudato Si’ means Praise be You in medieval Italian)

Pope Francis also calls for a World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on September 1st every year. It was on September 1st last year that he announced a new work of mercy in the Church, “Care for Our Common Home.” He then called for several week span to pray and reflect upon God’s gift of Creation for us in what he termed the “Season of Creation.” This Season of Creation comes to a close with this feast day of St. Francis of Assisi.  Let’s pray the prayer St. Francis wrote “Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon”. While praying, realize that St. Francis was near his death upon writing this prayer, suffering greatly in his health and from the stigmata.

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor and all blessings. To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun, Who is the day through whom You give us light. And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor, Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods, by which You cherish all that You have made.

Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water, So useful, humble, precious and pure.

Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire, through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You my Lord through our Sister, Mother Earth who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs. Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.

Blessed are those who endure in peace, By You Most High, they will be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death, from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.

No second death can do them harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks, And serve Him with great humility.

Learn more about this amazing Saint Here

Below are pictures with our MUHS student group Caring for Creation by do water quality testing on the Menominee River in Milwaukee, WI.