Saint Benedict Center in Middleton, WI, is situated on 130 acres overlooks the northern shore of Lake Mendota and the city of Madison, and serves as home to a 10,000-year-old glacial lake (Lost Lake). Over the years, rapid urbanization and farming on lands contiguous to the property contributed to significant pollution from nutrients, pesticides, metals and sediment, resulting in the loss of wildlife habitat and the disappearance of native vegetation. Further, over 400 acres of land drain into and through this site, making its health an integral part of the health of the broader Lake Mendota Priority Watershed.
In 1995, Prioress Mary David Walgenbach, OSB, and others in the community of less than 10 sisters, began to reflect on the centuries-old Benedictine tradition of reverence for all creation including humans, other animals, plants, air and water. Reverence for creation is an integral part of the community vision of Sisters of Saint Benedict; they seek to weave prayer, hospitality, and care for the earth into a shared way of life. The poor health of the land and its creatures moved the sisters to take action. They launched an extensive long-term proposal, calling for the restoration of 80 acres to native upland prairie and oak savannah, dredging 85,000 cubic yards of silt from Lost Lake, and creating a new detention basin to control runoff headed for Lake Mendota.
The small size of the community was not an obstacle for long, as they effectively formed partnerships with more than 50 area organizations, worked hand-in-hand with hundreds of volunteers of all ages over the next eight years, including: Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, college interns, civic organizations, schools, and many churches in the area. The sisters appreciated the communitys outpouring of support in terms of labor, planning and implementation, and the cherished the opportunity to share in the message of justice and care for all creation in the process.
As you might imagine, this ambitions effort brought about tremendous success. A new wetland/detention area eliminated downstream siltation and chemical runoff from 200 acres of land, significantly improving the quality of water flowing into Lake Mendota. The effort returned 90 acres of former farmland to native upland prairie, which provided a more expansive sanctuary for endangered wildlife and created a buffer to urban sprawl. Additionally, they returned Lost Lake to near its original area and depth, by removing 85,000 cubic yards of silt. Walgenbach said, The sisters and our co-workers will continue to make Saint Benedict Center a place of restoration of the natural environment and a place for renewal of the human heart. In collaboration with other people and organizations that care about the environment, we can make a difference for present and future generations. It was a valuable outreach opportunity to raise awareness of care for creation through the local partnerships as well as local, regional, and national news coverage of the work.
Neal Smith, Exec. Director, Administration
- Beautiful pictures that could be scanned in and added to the site
- Quotes about the effort from various participants
- Award letter from the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources, for the 1998 Wisconsin Business Friend of the Environment Award Environmental Stewardship Category
- Lots of news clippings