By Christine Bryant
Though located on a busy Blacklick road surrounded by new housing developments, there’s something peaceful about Shepherd’s Corner.
The ecology center, run by the Dominican Sisters of Peace, is a sanctuary that emphasizes caring for land, life and spirit, and those who visit its 160-acre natural oasis often leave with a new appreciation for not only wildlife, but for the importance of finding inner peace.
Stroll through the property and you’ll see naturally-grown gardens, a greenhouse, a pasture with sheep and a llama named Alejandro who protects those sheep from coyotes. You’ll also see 50 solar panels, trails that lead to a labyrinth for walking prayer and meditation, wetlands, wildflowers and a more than 100-year-old barn that houses space for several programs the organization offers to the public.
“We see it as green space for our neighbors as well,” Director Sister Rose Ann Van Buren said. “The biodiversity is marvelous.”
Van Buren is one of three sisters, who along with a small staff and several volunteers, run the ecology center. Their work focuses on providing a haven for wildlife and a spiritual refreshment for harried humans by offering programs, book groups, gardening workshops, tours and opportunities to explore the property. Groups are welcome to rent the facilities as well.
One of the most popular spaces on the property is the Sacred Labyrinth, a winding-circular path about 120 feet in diameter. The labyrinth has 3-feet-wide paths located between berms planted with wildflowers and perennials.
A common entrance and exit leads to the center of the labyrinth and back out, about half a mile each way, with benches placed at intervals that offer places for rest and meditation.
“Once a month, we hold a public labyrinth walk, with April 23 as the next one,” said Sister Diane Koslowski, program and volunteer manager. “We also hold night walks throughout the summer.”
Visitors may also walk the labyrinth, as well as the trails that wind through the property that feature reflection stations, on Fridays, when the center is open to the public.
An organization that works to give back to the community in several ways, Shepherd’s Corner features a 1⁄2-acre garden in which 65 percent of the harvest goes to local food pantries.
During the past seven years, staff and volunteers have delivered more than 17,000 pounds of food to help those in need, Sister Marguerite Chandler said.
“We primarily serve three food pantries – HEART, St. Philips and Bishop Griffin Center,” she said. “Occasionally we go downtown to Faith Mission.”
To help support this initiative, the center will hold two upcoming major fundraisers. On May 14, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., a plant sale will offer visitors the opportunity to purchase organic bedding plants that include heirloom tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, broccoli, eggplant, basil and other herbs. The sale also will include maple syrup, bee smooth hand cream, soap, chicken towels, sheep bags and other homemade products for sale.
On June 11, the 5K Farm Fresh Run/Walk will take place at the center. The all-terrain race will start at 9 a.m. and offers a course that surveys the landscape of the ecology center, including gardens, meadow trails and through woods.
Visit shepherdscorner.org for information.