Retreats with Sister Nancy Erts consist of much more than Christian prayers. A Dominican Sister of Hope and retreat leader at the Mariandale Retreat and Conference Center in Ossining, Sister Nancy focuses her retreats on “finding God in sacred writings, but also in nature and life itself.” Go on a retreat at Mariandale and you’ll not only pray the rosary, but you’ll walk a labyrinth for meditation, spend time in a wooden Native-American-style healing hut, and take nature walks along the Hudson.
According to Sister Nancy, all of these activities, in addition to traditional prayer services, help to bring people closer to God. In fact, these activities illuminate a crucial aspect of religion that is often ignored: the connection to nature.
“Being good to your ‘neighbor,’ in the bible doesn’t just refer to people,” Sister Nancy says, “it refers to animals, to plants, to everything. We need to develop a right relationship with nature in order to have a right relationship with God.”
She’s committed to helping people do just that. As she leads retreatants to a renewed sense of God’s presence in everything around them, Sister Nancy hopes to help them also realize their power as stewards of God’s creation. “My retreats are about that," Sister Nancy says, "about getting involved in the environment in the moral and ethical sense.” For the Dominican Sisters of Hope, care of Earth isn't limited to retreats. The sisters have participated in climate marches, Lenten fasts, and various other initiatives to honor and preserve the Earth. In April 2015, they committed to work on climate change impacts with four other Dominincan congregations as they approved a Corporate Stance on Climate Change on behalf of all five congregations.
Even Mariandale, where retreats are held, is earth-friendly and working to become more so in the future.
Sister Nancy is just one piece of the puzzle. She helped welcome bee-keeping and monarch butterflies onto Mariandale's campus, and, through retreats and eco-advocacy work, she continues to stand up for Earth's sake. As she says, connecting with the environment is a matter of justice and spirituality.
“We are called to be co-creators and co-redeemers of God’s work," Sister Nancy says. "We’re called to stay tuned to God and to recognize His presence in all of life.”
For more information about upcoming programs and retreats with Sister Nancy, visit www.mariandale.org or call 914-941-4455. The Mariandale Retreat and Conference Center is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit, ecumenical retreat center and a sponsored ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Hope located on the Hudson River in Ossining, NY.