We are delighted to report that the Sisters of St. Joseph have committed to donating to the Land Alliance a 47-acre conservation easement on a forested parcel of their 212-acre property in Brentwood (Suffolk County). This is just one of many actions the Sisters are taking to protect their valuable work and the future of our world.
According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, in communities of religious women, the number of aging members who are dying is much larger than the number of those entering. In an effort to continue their critical work, the Sisters are doing some very sophisticated estate planning. They are selling off hard assets such as buildings to create an endowment to ensure the continuation of their missionary work, which is at the heart of the church.
The Sisters consider holding land as a sacred trust, believing that land should be maintained for the ecological health of the earth. In 2015, the Sisters adopted and affirmed a Land Ethic Statement to protect the Brentwood lands and other holdings now and into the future.
In 2016 and 2019, they worked with Suffolk County and the Peconic Land Trust to preserve a 28-acre portion of their Brentwood property and return it to agriculture. Parcels of the land were leased to farmers. Fields have been restored for food and seed production. The organic vegetables that are grown there are available to the community for purchase at a farmstand.
In 2018, the Sisters partnered with organizations interested in promoting clean, sustainable energy use and generation on Long Island. With a desire to control energy costs, reduce the environmental footprint and move toward energy independence, they installed a ground mounted solar array system on the Brentwood property. The 1MW system (3,192 panels) supplies approximately 63% of current campus energy usage. It is the largest privately owned solar array on Long Island and has been operating since January 2018. The Sisters are also recycling water for irrigation purposes.
The Land Alliance looks forward to establishing a conservation easement later this year on 47 acres of pine forest in Brentwood. It will include both celestial and interpretive trails for the community to enjoy!
According to Yale Climate Connections, the Catholic Church owns 177 million acres of land across the globe for its churches and schools. It also owns a lot of farmland and forest land. In comparison, the largest landowner in the United States, the Emerson Family of Sierra Pacific Industries, owns 2,330,000 acres. The decisions made about land use within religious institutions like the Catholic Church can have a huge impact on our environment. We hope all of these institutions are as good stewards of our planet as the Sisters of St. Joseph.
More about the Sisters of St. Joseph
The Sisters of St. Joseph were founded in France in 1650 to meet the needs of the people and to witness a unifying love of God and neighbor. They arrived in Philadelphia in 1836. At the request of the Bishop of Brooklyn, Mother Austin Kean was called to Brooklyn to found what is now the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood. She was accompanied by Sister Baptista Hanson and Sister Theodosia Hegeman. They founded their first school in St. Mary’s Parish on Maujer Street in Williamsburg.
In 1896, the sisters needed additional space. Mother Mary Louise purchased the 123-room Austral Hotel, the Pearsall House and other buildings on a 350-acre property in Brentwood. The Austral Hotel became the Motherhouse and novitiate, and the Pearsall House became a chaplain’s residence. Saint Expedite Cottage, another former hotel building, became the Academy Infirmary. The Academy Building, also known initially as St. Charles Hall, was completed in 1903 and opened to its first academic class on June 1. Meanwhile in Brooklyn, St. Joseph Commercial H.S. was founded in 1904.
The congregation’s reputation in education and parish ministry spread. As the Catholic population grew, the Sisters were increasingly asked to staff schools and parishes. More congregationally owned schools were also opened: St. Joseph Juniorate, 1931; The Mary Louis Academy, 1936; Fontbonne Hall Academy, 1937; Stella Maris H.S., 1943; Sacred Heart Academy, 1949 and Academia María Reina, 1967.
To learn more about conservation easements, please contact the Land Alliance at 516-922-1028 or email us at [email protected].