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An Idea for a Collaborative Sustainable Community

Posted on June 1, 2017, by Martha Crawley CoL

Over the past 18 months, Beth Blissman, Jean East, Anna Koop, Lisa Reynolds, Mary Helen Sandoval and I have been considering the possibility of a future project in Denver — a values-based, intergenerational sustainable community. The idea was initially presented to the Community Forum in May 2016, and an update on progress was presented by Mary Helen and me at the Denver Community Forum meeting this past March.

Our idea is to create a sustainable living community with the collaboration of Regis Romero House, the Catholic Worker community and the Loretto Community. The idea emerged and grew from a convergence of several events, among them the Loretto decision to divest from fossil fuels, the Loretto Earth Network day this past August with Miriam Therese MacGillis, the fire that destroyed the Catholic Worker in January 2016 and the upcoming sale of the Loretto Centers. The idea converged with a desire on the part of Regis University to incorporate the Romero House more closely with the needs of poor people and the urgent issues of our time.

The vision for this effort is rooted in the collective values of the three potential partners: Regis, Catholic Worker and Loretto. Each of these groups is committed to principles and practices grounded in earth-based community living, working for justice and creating a sustainable lifestyle based on service to people who are marginalized, possibly including refugees and immigrants. Each of the potential partners is dedicated to creating a community that strives for a sacred, faith-based and simple way of being. We realize that our environment is fragile and at risk, that our economic system promotes exploitation, that the needs of those who are marginalized are increasing and that an intergenerational community with our values at its center is a model in which it is worth investing.

This collaboration would ideally consist of the following, if not initially, as it grows and emerges:

• provide housing for homeless and/or economically marginalized people in the Catholic Worker tradition. Some possibly would be refugees/immigrants;

• provide housing and service learning for Romero House Regis students;

• provide a community gathering place, possibly one to serve the Denver Loretto Community;

• provide a lifelong learning and intergenerational setting for all involved with the hope that participants could audit classes at Regis, if interested;

• explore inclusion of Loretto Volunteers, past Volunteers and other interested Loretto Community members, with the possibility of living space.

We would hope for this community effort to be a model for sustainable living both architecturally and socially and one that is rooted in all that is sacred. It would include urban farming, sustainable investment and potential income generation.

The idea is in the initial discovery phase. The Community Forum had excellent questions and suggestions that we are aiming to flesh out soon. We are aware that this is not a time when Loretto is able or wanting to attain properties. However, this effort could be an excellent opportunity to invest in a partnership that reflects our values and could offer a continuum of engagement for interested Loretto Community members and Volunteers. We were grateful that the Community Forum primarily was supportive of our continued exploration. We look forward to providing the group with the requested facts, figures and designs.


Martha Crawley CoL

Martha Crawley CoL, a 1969 graduate of Loretto Heights College and a former Sister of Loretto, has been involved with Loretto through all those years, demonstrating against the Vietnam War, praying at Rocky Flats and going on annual retreat with Loretto friends. An occupational therapist, Martha has worked and volunteered in numerous social agencies. She resides in Denver.
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