Sister Elizabeth and Sister Gloria

Growing Care and Compassion

Recycle. Reduce. Reuse. These three words have been a focal point in the lives of Sister Elizabeth and Sister Gloria, of the Sacred Heart Province of the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity in Denver, CO, for decades. Over the years, these Sisters have used their platform to help educate the community about environmental issues and inspire others to take action in caring for our planet.

They follow the Franciscan way, which was set forth by Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology and animals, who believed all Earth’s creatures should be treated equally under God.

Sister Elizabeth’s passion for the environment sprouted while growing up in South Dakota and spending time outdoors on her family farm. Later in life, she was introduced to backpacking and soon after, began hosting summer retreats in the Colorado Rockies. This personal connection to nature gave Sister Elizabeth a “deep sense of relationship with creation” and helped strengthen her resolve for environmental justice.

Sister Gloria was a sophomore in college when she found her passion for ecology and participated in the first Earth Day in 1970. She found it easy to talk about the environment and learn from others while attending a Sisters’ college and made it part of her life’s journey to continue to spread this message.

Both women are founding members of the Earth Care Committee at the Sisters of St. Francis of Denver. This environmental action group has been going strong for the past eight years. As members, both Sister Elizabeth and Sister Gloria attend meetings, stay abreast of current environmental regulations, and raise awareness within the community about the importance of reducing our carbon footprint.

Sister Elizabeth has also brought her passion to Francis Heights, a Mercy Housing senior housing community in the Denver Highlands neighborhood. As a resident there, she has spearheaded efforts to continue to raise awareness through a new group aptly named 3 R’s (recycle, reduce, reuse). Resident members of the 3 R’s group engage with their peers on ways they can make changes in their daily routine to help reduce single-use plastic and increase recycling.

Prior to coronavirus, 3 R’s held a kick-off meeting at Francis Heights, attended by 25 residents. In lieu of an in-person meeting, the 3 R’s have continued their outreach by sending out information in the monthly community newsletter.

While the pandemic has slowed the groups’ progress, it has not slowed their tenacity to keep this topic fresh in the minds of Mercy Housing residents. Their dedication has summoned inspiring words from residents and their beliefs about the importance of recycling, reducing, and reusing at Francis Heights.

Joseph, resident 3 R member said, “Because I love my grandchildren. I want to leave them with a better planet than what others left me. I want the air cleaner, the drinking water purer, the animal species more diverse, and more lawmakers in place who make decisions based on future consequences to our planet.”

Marylou said, “My son got me into recycling years ago and constantly tells me how to ‘help save the world’ for my granddaughter’s life. ‘Reduce’ is the most important, my son Christopher says. It is most important so if you don’t buy plastic items there will be less to recycle.”

With the help of Sister Elizabeth and Mercy Housing staff, the 3 R’s group forges ahead. They are currently working to build a more robust recycling program, continuing to educate others about caring for our planet and taking action to make a change for the future.

“I’m very proud of what Mercy Housing is doing for our community in Denver. The staff has been such great support in helping us move forward,” said Sister Elizabeth.

Through their work fighting for environmental justice, both Sister Gloria and Sister Elizabeth have inspired so many. It takes “all of us working together” to make a change and Mercy Housing is excited to have their strength and resolve helping lead the way.

To learn more about what Mercy Housing is doing to ensure that communities are sustainable, check out our Green Hope page.