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Benedictine network | Benedictine Handbook | Benedictine Handbook: Preface

Benedictine Handbook

In early 2007 the Benedictine sisters of Glinodo Earth Centre at Lake Erie published an accessible, simple-to-use environmental handbook for low-income rural and urban Benedictine communities in Latin America. The handbook - which is available in three languages both on the internet and in book form - was produced with the editorial assistance and guidance of ARC, and the financial assistance of the World Bank. The project took three years.

The handbook, titled Listening to the Earth in English, Ouvindo o Planeta Terra in Portuguese and Escuchar a la Tierra in Spanish (please note these are quite large pdf files) is expected to be a valuable resource for many Benedictine communities around the world. It is hoped that other religious and secular communities take and adapt it to their own purposes. See below for an extract from an email from a US church using it in their mission to the Dominican Republic

The World Bank involvement

"The Benedictine international network is strong and has a clear administrative and authoritative structure that makes the Benedictines positive partners for environmental activities," writes the World Bank in its five year report. "More than this, the Benedictines have a natural commitment to environmental stewardship through the Rule of St. Benedict, their 6th century founder. At the most grass-roots level, Benedictine communities can be very effective by not only putting natural resource management activities into practice, but also in building genuine partnerships with communities and relevant authorities in their local areas. The Benedictine commitment to the people and land around them is unquestionable and once a monastery is established, evidence suggests it will be there for generations regardless of political upheaval or natural disasters."

Other communities using the Handbook

There has been tremendous interest from other Benedictine communities, particularly in Africa. In October 2007 for example ARC received this email from a Benedictine prior in Kenya to whom we had sent the handbook:

"Just yesterday we received the Book LISTENING TO THE EARTH. It gave me a slipless night for I started reading it after compline and only realised that it was nearly three o'clock when I went to sleep. The part on energy/ electricity is of particular interest for me. Many thanks for the book. We will go through it "pole pole" slowly with the community. Thanks again yours in Christ. Fr. Florian OSB"

Other Christian communities around the world have also shown an interest in using the book. The following is is taken from an email from a mission group from Millcreek Community Church in Erie, received in September 2007:

"Thank you for your response. I have already been to Earth Force at the Tom Ridge Center. I was provided with approximately 20 copies of the Spanish and six of the English. I was overwhelmed at the generosity. The books are going to be used for teaching purposes. They will be the focus of an educational program that will be organized for leaders in the small surrounding villages. The need for the information is great.

We currently have two missionaries, Rob and Melissa Dunn, from our church, Millcreek Community Church, that are working in and around Hato Mayor, Dominican Republic. They also reach the Hatian villages where living conditions are beyond belief... The books you have provided are GREATLY appreciated and will be utilized to the fullest extent for a long time to come. The education provided will assist in changing lives...." Mary Di Tullio, Erie.

The book has also been useful for Catholic schools around the world who are finding the theology and stories helpful in developing their own environmental strategies. For example, Peter Wells, head of St Joseph’s Catholic College, Swindon, has said: “It’s brilliant as a guide to what to do about the environment as a Catholic school – and the theological reasons why we should do something. There’s a core in this book that means you can say to yourself, as a reader: “I can see this working in a practical way”... It shows how Christianity is a source of a rich understanding of the earth”


Link here to read the preface in English
Link here to download the whole book in English.
Link here to download the whole book in Portuguese.
Link here to download the whole book in Spanish.

Please note that the handbooks are around 1.2MB in size.

Link here for the personal story of its writer and editor Bill Bartlett, who describes why the book was written, how it changed in its three years of conception, and some of the challenges he faced.

Link here for a letter about the handbook from the International Water and Sanitation Centre.

Link here for the World Bank's review of the handbook, including a recommendation that: "This book is relevant to an audience far greater than the 300+ Benedictine monasteries and their large associated communities in urban and rural Latin America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Indeed, adaptations are being planned for African Muslim communities and for Buddhist communities in Asia."

Background to Benedictine Communities around the World

There are some 122 monasteries in Latin America, 93 in Africa, 87 in Asia and 11 in Oceania, with the size of the communities varying considerably from around 5 to over 300. Around each of those monasteries is a sizeable lay community of people outside, with whom they work.

Link here for an account in English of the work of Alliance Inter-Monastere, which links many of these communities.

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