By Sister Katherine Hill
The Critical Concerns call upon us to act in harmony with all Creation, and beekeeping is one way I can do that. To actively participate in healing Earth. Visionary thought leader Jan Phillips says “to heal the world is to heal ourselves, whole and entire.”
In an effort to participate in Earth’s laboring to heal herself, I wanted to do something that encouraged that healing. I thought about the possibility of backyard beekeeping as a means to help the bees and to be in harmony with Creation. I joined the Michigan Beekeepers Association in 2016.
I attended a daylong workshop in the summer of 2017. Subsequently, I invited the presenters to our Mercy complex to speak to the sisters about bees. The presenter incorporated the mission of the Sisters of Mercy. She spoke about “the life of bees” and the importance of the survival of bees as pollinators.
After their presentation, they visited with the sisters and shared honey from the Detroit metropolitan area. The teachers, Joan Mandell and Rich Wieske, are from a company called Green Toe Gardens. They have been instrumental in supporting new beekeepers in the city and suburbs for a number of years.
I received an email from Joan at Green Toe Gardens inviting me to sign up for a class sponsored by Michigan State University in January 2019. She sent me the link to the website and the information was all there. It was a beginner’s class. I would be with 45 new beekeepers all doing the same thing—trying to set up a backyard beehive. I felt like this was serendipitous.
There is grace in paying attention and just moving one step at a time. I knew that God was leading me. I signed up for the class and purchased the beekeeping book. I found a website where I could get materials for beekeeping. I felt more relaxed about the process because I would be in a class with other beekeeping beginners.
I have learned that bees “read” pheromones—ours, as well as the members of the hive. In the practice of beekeeping, one must slow down and be in the present moment, let go of fear, impatience, agitation and anger in order to enter bee space safely.
The art, in the work of beekeeping, fits effortlessly into spiritual direction practice. It demands that I be calm and remember to direct my attention and intention for the benefit of the one before me. It reminds me to let the speaker lead with their story. It reinforces in my mind the importance of providing judgement-free space when listening to others in the direction setting. Like bees, we humans can sense when we are being heard.
Beekeeping is aligned with our commitment to live in harmony with Earth and to do all that we can to minimize our carbon footprint. Bees are essential to food production and to providing good healthy plant and animal life.
The practice of beekeeping has the potential to provide me with “…a doorway into silence, where another voice may speak.” (Mary Oliver)
Sister Katherine is grateful to be part of a larger community of beekeepers and bee lovers in the Mercy family that includes Associate Danielle Daguio of Mercy Volunteer Corps and her husband Robert Orler; Andrea Vettori, a Mercy Companion in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Sister Cheryl Philips, who designed signs and labels for the honey; the maintenance and grounds keeping staff at the Farmington Hills, Michigan, campus (Greg Bloch, Mike Burrell, Alan Kukurka, Ron Sill and Don Tack); Sisters Donna Deedler and Helen Marie Burns; the sisters at McAuley Life Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan; and Mercy Farm Eco-Spirituality Center in Benson, Vermont.