Where One Woman’s Green Habits Grew

Sloppy dog kisses, dandelions and stargazing in the American West shaped Sr. Elise Mora. She had a tough upbringing as an orphan. She lived with six different families, often wondering why no one wanted to keep her, and why people abused animals. But connecting with pets and the outdoors led to her lifetime of environmental advocacy as a Sister of St. Francis of the Providence of God.

Sr. Elise is animated as she touches the shoulder of a woman at reception.

Sr. Elise (left) works the crowd after Standup Sisters: Green Habits. Photo: Ryan Haggerty/Work Hard Digital Services

“Being a Franciscan turned out to be a perfect fit for me,” Sr. Elise says. “St. Francis loved all of creation: He spoke of Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Wind, Sister Water, Brother Wolf. And he especially loved the poor.”

Sr. Elise was one of five Catholic sisters who shared personal and professional stories of care for creation at Standup Sisters: Green Habits. Unabridged Press produced the March 8 event at St. Thomas More Church in Bethel Park, Penn. About 250 school children and 125 adults attended to celebrate the first day of National Catholic Sisters Week, Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day.

Standup Sisters Mic and Rosary LogoStandup Sisters: Green Habits was inspired in part by Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, called Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. “Laudato Si'” means “Praise be to you,” and borrows from the words of the Canticle of Creationa prayer by 12th-century Italian, St. Francis of Assisi

“I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet,” the pope said in the 2015 document. “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”

Standup Sisters: Green Habits hopes to advance that new dialogue, through the stories that will be released in audio and video formats in the coming months. If you wish to receive notification when we have new stories and news to share, please add your e-mail address in the box below and click “subscribe.” 

Sr. Elise displays a mostly dry paper towel in her kitchen.

“You only need one towel.” That’s one of Sr. Elise’s favorite practical tips for environmental conservation. Photo: J.Szweda Jordan


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Courage and Compassion

By Jennifer Szweda Jordan

Five dynamic women share personal stories of their lives spent teaching, feeding, and learning from people from around the world.

Each Catholic sister spoke at the Standup Sisters: Border Crossings event, held at La Roche College. The audio is now available for each story by clicking on the images below.

“We are lucky,” said Sister Nelida Naveros Cordova. “And we all at the same time have the responsibility to help those in need. I invite you to find ways how we can reach those in need.”

Please listen, and prepare to be inspired!

Special thanks to National Catholic Sisters Week, La Roche College Mission and Ministry, Sisters of Divine Providence, Communications Professor Janine Bayer, and St. Thomas More Young Adult Ministry.

(All photos by Ryan Haggerty)

Sister Betty Sundry, a Sister of Divine Providence, is a social justice legend in Pittsburgh. Here, she talks about the event that sparked her interest in righting wrongs.

Rhonda Miska (who becomes a sister this month with the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters) shares her story of a holy walk with Nicaraguan villagers.

Sister Nelida Naveros Cordova, a Sister of Divine Providence, remembers seeing poverty for the first time, and describes her work mobilizing students to help people in need.

Sr. Janice Vanderneck, a Sister of St. Joseph, speaks of her early crush on Latino culture and her work today helping migrants from Mexico living in Pittsburgh.

Sister Mary Lou Palas, of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, was a small-town Pennsylvania girl who traveled around the U.S. to teach. When she was 70-something, she packed her bags and moved to Korea for another adventure.

Helping Each Other Walk in the Dark

There were heartbreaking stories of the end of innocence, and the harrowing lives of the poor around the world. There were funny tales about convent pranks. And there was sweet piano music asking, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” 

Standup Sisters: Border Crossings, a storytelling event held at La Roche College on March 14, featured Catholic sisters whose lives began in towns in Pennsylvania and Peru. They went on to serve the poor in the Amazon and every corner of the world over decades, and still today.

“One of the most pressing issues of our time is how we support our neighbors in need here and abroad to become the best they can be,” said Standup Sisters producer Jennifer Szweda Jordan. “The women who spoke at Standup Sisters have lived with the most vulnerable people within and outside of our borders. Their stories provide a more holistic view of the challenges and the joys of being one human family.”

Audio recordings of this event will be made available in the coming weeks. Now available is a video from the youngest member of the “Standup Sister” crew. Rhonda Miska is not yet a sister. She’s going through the steps in that process with the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters, based in Wisconsin. She is what’s known as a “candidate” for religious life, and she writes for U.S. Catholic, America magazine, and is part of the network Catholic Women Preach.

In Miska’s story, she answers the question: What’s it like to walk in an unknown land, on a mountain, in the dark, wearing flip flops? The Nicaraguans who invited her on an age-old religious procession taught Miska a lot about what it means to fall, and what it means to catch one another–a metaphor for being a global community.