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Caring for the earth can begin with reusing and recycling cloth

After Pope Francis wrote his encyclical Laudato Sí – on the care of the earth – he invited all sectors of the Church to develop action plans outlining what they would do in response to his challenge. The response of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph was to set up a Laudato Sí Creation Care committee to produce an action plan. The members of the committee are Sisters Angela Fitzpatrick, Michele Morek, Suzanne Sims, Amelia Stenger and Sharon Sullivan.

This is a multi-year project for the Sisters, and after reviewing what the Ursulines have already done, the committee decided to focus on Climate Change. Recycling was chosen as the specific project for the year because this is something everyone can do. As Pope Francis said, “There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions.” (LS211)

As part of our educational mission, the committee will be writing a series of short pieces. Since some find clothing/fabric the hardest to recycle, that topic will be the first of our series.

Recycling clothing and cloth

In the best tradition of the “three Rs,” start with Reduce and Reuse before you get to Recycle. Reduce starts with your closet. We assume that you know better than to shop for entertainment – how many shirts of the same color do you actually need? One little black dress (or the male equivalent) with imaginative changes of accessories should be enough for most. Have a “buy one give one” rule; for every item of clothing you buy, give one away.

If you can’t reuse something yourself, “vintage” clothing shops are very popular; try that or a consignment shop and get a little money back! Donate clothing to the Salvation Army, or –

if it needs mending – give it to an organization like Goodwill, which hires people to mend and refurbish. Sometimes, domestic arts programs like to get used clothing to practice tailoring.

Recycle: check with a local activity group to see if they can use fabric for quilting, for making blankets for homeless people, or for making lap robes for nursing homes. Or, as a last resort, check your own rag barrel to be sure you have plenty of rags to use (instead of paper towels) for cleaning up spills. Check with your local thrift store: many thrift stores send unusable fabrics to be shredded and reprocessed into new fabrics.

Sister Michele Morek

Here is how we do this at Mount Saint Joseph

We make quilts. Every quilter has a stash of fabric – some more than others! When one of our quilter friends dies, a loved one usually calls to ask if we want the fabric. One gentleman brought his wife’s fabric to us and cried with every box, as he shared her treasure with us.

We go through each box of fabric we get; if we can’t use it, we take it to Bellevue Baptist Church quilt ministry. They take what they want and send the rest to their mission in Appalachia, which uses what they can – which is most of it. They are very creative and nothing is wasted.

Fabric is a wonderful gift that we use to make quilts for our Quilt Bingo, Quilt of the Month Club and Quilt Sale, which all raise money to support our mission work. Even small scraps are used to make a quilt of one-inch squares. Any leftover scraps are put into a large square pillow for dog beds that we take to the Daviess County Animal Shelter.

We believe that if people are kind enough to share with us, we must also share with others. In this way we all benefit and nothing harms our earth.

Sister Amelia Stenger



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