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Care of Creation at the Mission San Jose Motherhouse

Care of Creation is a decision and way of life that can be experienced at the Motherhouse. Guests attending arts, music, school or young adult retreats or non-profit seminars describe the sense of peace that permeates the campus. Pope Francis challenges humanity to hallow the gifts of God's creation as central to our planet's survival.

Nurturing and cherishing creation is a command God gives not only at the beginning of history, but to each of us. It is part of his plan; it means causing the world to grow responsibily, transforming it so that it may be a garden, a habitable place for everyone.

The Dominican Sisters Motherhouse, purchased in 1891 by Mother Pia Backes for $30,000 from San Francisco Archbishop Riordan, remains a productive, habitable garden. Pioneering Sisters were cash poor but determined to achieve Mother Pia’s goal: 

The grape crop will probably pay the interest and the olive crop, the capital. 

photo of Sister Barbara Hagel in the gardenToday the 26-acre campus demonstrates the impact of sustainable choices on the soil, plants, birds, animals and people who live, work or gather here. The Sisters’ Care of Creation initiatives steward this resource, recognizing that we do not own but rather occupy the land, nourishing it and receiving nourishment from the sacred grounds entrusted to us.

The Sisters cultivate the largest remaining Mission-era olive grove, with harvests yielding one to three thousand bottles of extra virgin Dominican Sisters Olive Oil a year. Solar topped parking areas produce 391,657 kilowatt hours annually, providing 65% of the power used in the new St. Joseph Residence and Dominican Center. In place of a large, chemically fertilized lawn, a beautiful meadow was designed and planted with native California grasses and drought tolerant bulbs and flowers, capturing storm runoff and returning rain water to underground aquifers.

The Garden of Blessings provides fresh fruit and vegetables, supplementing daily Dining Room meals with organic produce pollinated by Motherhouse bees. In the 1930s Sister Balbina Schallwig tended hives that yielded 80 gallons of honey and replaced butter on the Sisters’ breakfast tables. Today, Sister Barbara Hagel manages eight Motherhouse hives with her local, raw Holy Honey sold at 2018 Holiday Boutique. How appropriate that busy bees and productive queens offer a metaphor for a congregation of women dedicated to the Queen of the Holy Rosary!

This reservoir of quiet beauty feeds the soul and gladdens the hearts of Sisters and visitors alike. Walk the grounds and encounter God’s creation in the trees, plants, birds, butterflies and bees. Tended with love and serving the Sisters’ mission, the Motherhouse offers a great blessing. Together let us treasure and care for this garden, so it can serve busy and restless Bay Area communities and families, who live in a sea of noise and confusion, yet seek a horizon of beauty and peace.


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