Deer Run Coal Mine is Sinking the Heartland and Hearts

 By Sr. Maxine Pohlman, S.S.N.D.
Sister Maxine is Director of the Missionary Oblates’ La Vista Ecological Learning Center located at the Oblate Novitiate in Godfrey, Illinois.

Deer Run Coal Mine is sinking the heartland and heartsAbout an hour’s drive northeast of the La Vista Ecological Learning Center lies the town of Hillsboro and the Deer Run Coal Mine. As part of my ministry at La Vista I joined the Mining Issues Group of the Sierra Club fighting longwall mining, a process used by Deer Run which extracts 90% of the coal, causing land above to subside 5 – 6 feet and changing it irreversibly. Homesteads, highways, schools and whole communities have been lost or threatened due to “planned subsidence.”

Our work group includes members of CALM, Citizens Against Longwall Mining, and since 2004 they have been committed to opposing coal mining that destroys fertile farmland as well as coal ash and coal slurry disposal methods that threaten the health of their communities, their lands and waters. This is an example of social and environmental justice going hand-in-hand, as we read in Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’: “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation.”

In our meetings to determine actions to stop destructive mining, Mary Ellen DeClue, a member of CALM, raised this significant question: “Why are Illinois government agencies and legislators aligning with the interests of coal-fired utilities and coal mining companies to the detriment of the public they serve?” This theme is repeated weekly during our meetings and in these comments I hear the frustration that comes when the burden of harm and cost is shifted to the local community, all to maximize short-term gains by coal companies.

We were made aware that the coal processing plant next door to Hillsboro Hospital has contaminated liquid waste that flows from the mine into Central Park Creek. The contaminated waste also flows past the Hillsboro high school, middle school and throughout the community.

The agencies that regulate coal mining are allowed to be overly pressured by the industry that they oversee. Coal mining regulations are not enforced and communities pay with their health and a degraded environment.

The wisdom of Laudato Si’ is exemplified in examples like this one all over the world every day. When will the human community start taking this wisdom to heart?

For more information visit: CALM: Watch the video “Sinking the Heartland” https://


Learning Garden is Born: The Novitiate Farm is Revitalized

LaVista Learing GardenBy Mary O’Herron

Mary O’Herron is a former staff member of the Oblates’ Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office. She has been named an Honorary Oblate for her dedication to justice and ecological issues.

Something exciting has been going on at the Novitiate in Godfrey, Illinois, and, as is often the case with such things, a tremendous amount of effort was involved.

Time at the Novitiate usually includes only theological, spiritual and ministerial formation for novices as well as learning about the Oblates and what it means to be an Oblate. This past year there has been an additional dimension of learning – hands-on very practical skills that can be useful for any adult no matter where they work or live – things like maintaining a property, how to begin and maintain a garden and other things that help provide for a family or a community.

The novices, who come from several different cultures around the world, have been transforming the property under the tutelage of an amazing volunteer, Vernon DePauw, a nationally-known wood carver, who also has many other talents and skills.

This Novitiate has a farm area that was neglected the past several years. It is gradually being restored to a working farm and a place to teach practical skills to novices that they can use the rest of their lives. From March through June, they spent nearly 800 man-hours among them and learned how to replace broken windows and lights, repair roofs, gutters and sagging gates, how to use chainsaws and table saws safely, set up honeybee hives, do electrical work, make a chicken house, create an orchard, to re-purpose many items as well as the farm itself.

Vernon taught the novices basic gardening skills around planning, improving the soil, preparing and planting fields, watering, weeding, composting, and other ongoing tasks that make a farm functional. He also showed them how to set up a rainwater collection system.

They designed and installed a new sign at the entrance to the property and set up the shop as a work area. Lots of painting and organizing were part of the effort. They cut up dead trees and cleared fields that had been too full of debris to be mowed.

Vernon says that he has intentionally not finished some projects so the next group of novices have similar learning opportunities. He says further: “A farm like this will always have work to be done and things to repair, so the learning will be ongoing. Thanks to this group of novices, the hard work of just cleaning the farm up so we can move on to learning is mostly done. The many, many hours of dirty work of junk removal and clean up have been time consuming but all have given their best to get the work done, and they are the best!”

Vernon believes that those who saw the Novitiate last fall will easily see the transformation, but others seeing it for the first time may simply see it as an organized and functional farm. He help the novices connect with the earth and teach by his example and knowledge but they came away with a deeper appreciation of community and how working together can enhance their lives, as well as skills that will be a good resource in daily life and ministry no matter where they end up working or living.

Not only will future novices learn these ideas and skills but all those who see the farm and learn the story can be beneficiaries of these experiences. Perhaps they will be inspired to see fresh possibilities or do similar things. Bravo Vernon and the Novices!


Winds of Climate Change: How Young Folks Should Inspire Us

Br Joey Methé, OMIby Br. Joey Methé, O.M.I.
Brother Joey is a Missionary Oblate originally from Canada who works with the Oblates’ Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation office in Washington D.C.

As the last decade drew to an end, l took some time to reflect on the last ten years. Though there have been many tragedies, conflicts, persistent inequality (and the list goes on), a spark of hope has also emerged in the way of heightened youth interest and engagement on climate change.

Climate change is shaping up to be a defining issue of their generation as seen by the acclaim of Greta Thunberg, a young person from Sweden, who has become a public face for this issue. She is inspiring an entire generation of young people to get involved because, even at a young age, they are witnessing our climate shift from the certainty of seasons to the chaos of catastrophic weather.

The impact of the changing climate is wide-ranging with entire subcontinents affected; think of the Australian bush fires of 2019. Despite such tragedies, the last decade has laid the groundwork for wider consciousness on these issues. We can inspire ourselves as we witness the actions of our youth here in the United States who are actively engaged in this movement, especially here in Washington, D.C. Student groups are emerging on university and college campuses throughout the world to mobilize young people around this issue.

What’s more encouraging is that even the institutional church is taking note. Many Catholics are mobilizing around the issue inspired by Pope Francis’ second encyclical, Laudato Si, and by these youth-led movements. Pope Francis commends worldwide youth-led movements for their courage and bravery in tackling this issue. In 2019 during an audience with diplomats, he said: “The younger generation reminds us of the urgent need for an ecological conversion.”
We need to make more space for these young people in our churches, our communities and our institutions so they can become greater actors in this global undertaking.

The OMI USA JPIC office has also been busy in the background working on issues related to climate change. We continually engage with major companies such as Boeing, Marathon Petroleum, Disney, JP Morgan Chase and other multinationals on their climate change records and bringing into question their pollution-enabling practices. On a global level, we participated in the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City in September 2019 and in June 2019 the Biscay ESG Global Summit on climate change in Madrid, Spain. Our work takes us all over the world and youth climate activists give us hope for the future.

As 21st century missionaries, we need to inspire ourselves and engage with young folks just as St. Eugene De Mazenod was not afraid of engaging with youth of his time. Now, in continuing this tradition, it is time for us to let ourselves be evangelized by the poor; in this case, youth who fear for their future, especially when it comes to climate change related disasters.

Oblates Name New Director for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation

The Superior General of the Missionary Oblates has appointed Fr. Jean-Hérick Jasmin, O.M.I., of the Province of Haiti, as Director of the General Service for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, for a first term of three years.

Father Jasmin was born in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti in 1972. He began his vocation formation with the Oblates in 1993, and entered the pre-novitiate in 1995. He made his First Vows in 1996 and Perpetual Vows in 2002. He was ordained to the sacrament of priesthood in 2003.

In the same year, Fr. Jasmin received his first obedience to the Oblate mission in Colombia. He was first the Director of Formation in Colombia for nine years. In the meantime, he completed his master’s degree and the doctorate in Theology of Action at the Javeriana University.

Father Jasmin has also been a member of the Conference of Religious of Latin America (CLAR), as a theologian and adviser since 2007 and has written many articles on Religious Life in many Spanish language magazines.

Father Jasmin has gained ample experience as a pastor in various parishes. In 2014 he was vicar at San Mario, and since 2017 he has been the parish priest at Madre del Divino Amor, a parish of Mestizos and Afro-Colombians. Added to that, he has rendered his services as Archpriest of Consecrated Life in the Vicariate of San José since 2019.