True life shepherds
Feelings of peace and contentment abound while sheep quietly chew on soft, green grass.
Fresh produce matures on the vine as sunlight peeks through wispy clouds, and peaceful walking trails awash with wildflowers beckon to all who enter.
Tucked in between busy roads and new housing developments is one of the Eastside’s best-kept secrets – the Shepherd’s Corner Ecology Center, sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Peace.
“People tell us that once you get on the land you feel like you can get away from it all,” explains Sister Diane Kozlowski, program and volunteer manager.
The 160-acre natural oasis at 987 N. Waggonner Road serves as a farm and center for ecology, spirituality and education.
Although the land was purchased by the Dominican Sisters of Peace in the 1960s, it wasn’t until 1992 that a small community of sisters took up residence and began to explore ways to utilize the property.
“They were asked to think about what the sisters could do to care for this land,” Kozlowski said. “Back then there wasn’t anything out here – just a brick farmhouse that dated back to the Lincoln era. We had some offers on the property, but it wasn’t our wish to sell it.”
The sisters decided to combine ecologically sound principles of living, organic methods of gardening, and spiritually enhanced educational and contemplative experiences as a way to preach Catholic social teachings on the care of creation, Kozlowski explained.
“We really consider it important in today’s age to be all about caring for the earth and creation,” Kozlowski said. “If everyone is doing one small thing we can make a tremendous difference.”
Their vision statement reads: “Shepherd’s Corner Farm and Ecology Center is a small corner of creation seeking to recreate the land’s wholeness by rediscovering the life-giving harmony between people and the land. Here, people of all backgrounds can learn to reconnect with the natural environment themselves, one another and the creator who made them all.”
“It’s a safe place here,” said Sister Rose Ann Van Buren, director of the center. “The staff cares. The volunteers care. You can just really be free to enjoy, learn and experience the land.”
Van Buren pointed out the property’s diverse range of habitats offers a haven for wildlife and native flora, plus a place of peace, natural beauty and spiritual refreshment. With diverse ecosystems, the land hosts 320 species among its habitats, including fields, forests, wetlands, woodlands and riparian corridor. Approximately 75 acres of the property is considered a conservation area.
A renovated barn, which is more than 100 years old and relocated from the Lockbourne area, is the center of Shepherd’s Corner, featuring office and program space.
Surrounding it are chemical-free, naturally grown gardens; a greenhouse; a pasture with chickens, turkeys, sheep, a llama; honeybees; a labyrinth for walking prayer and meditation; a meditation trail with reflection stations; and an abundance of wildflowers, birds and wildlife.
A seasonal menu of special programs is offered, from nature and labyrinth walks to pottery, fiber arts, book groups and workshops. Adult and student group programming is available, ranging from environmental education and arts to outdoor learning and work on the land. School, scouting and church groups often take advantage of the programming.
A camp for children ages 9-12 is offered in the summer, and participants learn about the plant life cycle; soil and compost; water and wetlands; wool and sheep; bees; and plant identification.
“The kids are fun,” Kozlowski said. “They love to meet the animals. They write us thank-you notes – wonderful letters about what they have learned.”
Shepherd’s Corner is open to the public most Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a suggested donation of $2 per person. All are welcome to walk past the animal pastures and farm gardens, peruse the meditation trail, or walk the labyrinth. Picnics are welcome in the patio area near the farmhouse.
For more information about Shepherd’s Corner Farm and Ecology Center, as well as a schedule of events, visit www.shepherdscorner.org or call (614) 866-4302.
• Newborn Needs, 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9. Facilitated by Diane Kozlowski, OP, staff. Suggested donation: $5. Gather with others to knit or crochet afghans, hats, sleepers, sweaters, and other articles for premature and needy newborn infants in Ohio. Begin with prayers and blessings for the babies and carry through the intention throughout the creation of the articles.
• Labyrinth Walk “Reflecting Light: Celebrating and Welcoming Winter,” 7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 21. Facilitated by Tina Thonnings, massage practitioner. Suggested donation: $5. Register by Dec. 18. Come for a candle-lit, fireside reflection of the change of season. Walk in silence, drinking in the stillness and peace. As the winter season begins, stand at the edge between the light of day and lengthening of night. Find inner stillness and welcome in the grace that winter invites as we slow down.