Felician Sisters Launch National Solar Power Project

December 14, 2016

BEAVER FALLS, Pa.– The Felician Sisters of North America’s recent solar installation of 1,032 solar panels in Livonia, Michigan will independently power two Felician-sponsored ministries in Livonia—Madonna University and the Montessori Center of Our Lady. The installations are part of the Felician Sisters of North America’s nationwide solar power project that will see a series of such solar installations take place in the coming months at six Felician Sisters’ sites across the country.

A ground-mounted array, consisting of 600 solar panels situated on the Felician Sisters’ campus adjacent to Newburgh Road, is expected to generate nearly 98 percent of the electric power at the Montessori Center of Our Lady.

The top of the Franciscan Center at Madonna University features a roof array of 432 solar panels, directly supplying to the University a portion of the campus’s total electric power. Madonna University plans to incorporate the solar array into the University's larger sustainability program, offering students first-hand insight into the practical application of sustainable solutions.

The Felician Sisters’ nationwide initiative includes additional solar installations at Felician convents and Felician-sponsored ministries in Buffalo, New York; Lodi, New Jersey; Chicago, Illinois; Coraopolis, Pennsylvania; and the Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania-based Provincial House of the Felician Sisters, the administrative and canonical center for the nearly 600 Felician Sisters across North America.

Total power generation from all combined sites will produce an estimated 3.3 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in the first year of operation. The nationwide project is expected to avoid more than 110 million pounds of CO2 emissions over its 35-year operating life—the equivalent CO2 emissions from burning more than 3 million pounds of coal every year for 35 years.

Care for the earth, a cornerstone of the Felician Sisters’ core values and central to the centuries-old Felician Franciscan tradition, propelled this project more than two years in the making.

“The Felician Sisters serve as prophetic witness to a world in need of healing—the poor and marginalized of our society as well as the very earth which sustains us,” said Sister Mary Christopher Moore, CSSF, provincial minister, Our Lady of Hope Province. “Our Holy Father depicts an increasingly impoverished environment in his encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home saying,  ‘… the earth herself burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of the poor … We have forgotten that we are ourselves dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.’”

Sister Christopher noted, “Our solar project is a highly visible witness of our commitment to be responsible stewards of creation. This project not only embodies Catholic social teaching, it also embodies our moral obligation to care for the earth now as well as for our common future.”

Felician Provincial Sustainability Coordinator Sister Mary Jean Sliwinski, CSSF, added that the Sisters have historically been committed to environmental justice and are actively making an effort to lessen their dependence on fossil fuels by integrating new sources of sustainable energy. She cited currently existing projects such as the Sisters’ installation of solar panels for water heating in convents in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New Mexico, the creation of a LEED-certified convent and high school in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, the installation of geo-thermal heating in Buffalo, New York, and the preservation of green space on their properties.

“This solar power project represents the next chapter in our ongoing efforts to care for and repair the earth,” Sister Jean said. “The vast scope of this project represents a new level of commitment by the Sisters, enabling us to sustainably generate a significant amount of electricity. An initiative that helps protect the environment, it is also a wonderful opportunity to educate the larger community about renewable energy.”

Reverend Charles Morris, Madonna University associate professor of religious studies and Sustainability Task Force chair, concurred saying, “By using renewable energy we not only are strengthening our relationship with the Earth, we also are educating our neighbors. Through this unprecedented solar power installation, we are demonstrating how natural resources such as the sun with which God has blessed us, are in turn blessing others—now and for generations to come.”