A community of nuns in Terre Haute is searching for new ways to make up for the millions of dollars in health care costs they expect to incur as the sisters age.
The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary of the Woods signed a deal last year allowing CountryMark to search for oil on their property. If the company began extracting oil, the nuns could have received part of the profits.
After scanning the ground, CountryMark did find oil but not enough to drill.
“We’re hoping that Providence sends us another source of income, but I think we’re glad it wasn’t oil,” Sister Denise Wilkinson, the general superior of the Sisters of Providence, who adds that the sisters were conflicted about allowing oil drilling on their land from the beginning.
The Sisters of Providence are known for their mission of eco-justice and the environmentally conscious way they maintain their 1,200 acres, which includes land dedicated to organic farming and raising alpacas.
The community will soon need several million dollars in additional revenue as many of its 350 sisters age and, therefore, need additional health care and have additional retirement costs.
The nunnery recently received a grant from the National Religious Retirement Office to hire a Wisconsin consulting firm that will explore alternative sources of revenue.
Revenue sources could include selling land or re-purposing buildings. Wilkinson says many sisters hope they could also expand their organic farming operations to become more profitable or use the woodlands to establish a land trust.
“But I think I personally don’t want to get too attached to any idea before I see the whole range of ideas that are out there,” Wilksonson says.
The consulting process is expected take about a year.