Activist Nuns Build Chapel on Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Route

Oil pipelines create an ugly scar across the landscape, endanger communities and perpetuate our reliance on fossil fuels. But one group of Catholic nuns in Pennsylvania isn’t having it. The Adorers of the Blood of Christ are engaging in a time-honored tradition: nonviolent civil disobedience to protect the environment.

Some might block pipelines with sit-ins, or chain themselves to equipment, but these nuns came up with a delightfully innovative form of protest: They built an open-air chapel right along the pipeline’s proposed route, which runs through their land.

The government is allowing Williams Partners to seize private land with eminent domain, but before they have a chance to move in, the nuns decided to glorify the memory of Christ, with Lancaster Against Pipelines acting as their co-conspirator.

The chapel’s construction moved quickly, with the nuns dedicating the site before the oil company had a chance to seize their land. Now, Williams Partners is racing to court in the hopes of gaining control of that contested soil.

Activism is nothing new for many Catholic orders in the U.S. and beyond. And in the case of the Adorers, this comes as a priority. Their order specifically cites environmental justice as a concern, and mandates that members of the order work in harmony with the earth. Standing by while an oil pipeline cuts through the land they’ve taken care of for decades would go against their religious and social principles.

The nuns say that the “sacred space” they created will give “tangible witness to the sacredness of life on Earth.” The order is aware that they are likely to lose the land to eminent domain and that their installation will be removed or destroyed. Even so, the nuns feel that it’s an important gesture in a larger fight against the pipeline. They also explain that they don’t view themselves as activists, merely as residents and caretakers working to protect their land.

Members of this order aren’t the only ones upset by the pipeline’s infringement on sacred land. The route also goes through some 50 farms and 40 waterways, in addition to at least eight Native American sites.

Oil pipelines can leak, explode and cause other environmental and social problems. And that means they’re not the best of neighbors, something nuns from other regions of the country know all too well. In 2014, a group of Texas nuns  managed to successfully beat back an oil company’s attempt to infringe on their land.

While the Dakota Access Pipeline battle has captured headlines around the world, a growing list of pipelines criss-cross the country, carrying oil for a range of companies. Many pass through vulnerable ecosystems, native land and communities without the capital to resist. The Trump administration’s broad support of oil pipelines has some worried that the pace of construction may increase, even as oversight decreases.

The efforts of the Adorers may not ultimately block passage of this particular pipeline, but they are a signal that people from all backgrounds and walks of life oppose potentially hazardous pipelines running through their communities.

Activist nuns are also a reminder that for every Catholic order attempting to impose harmful, backwards religious values on others, there are a dozen more fighting for social justice.

Photo credit: Intermountain Region USFS

91 comments

Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O4 months ago

I feel the First Nation folk should have just as much, if not far more power over these stoppages than anyone or group... religious or otherwise. Please keep us all informed on this as I think it is a good and right way to go, pulling together in unity will win out every time.

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Cindy M. D
Cindy M. D4 months ago

Oh I'm just loving this!!!!! Cleaver, creative, clearly non-violent. God spoke, you listened, you created, YOU ROCK!!

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Margie F
Margie FOURIE4 months ago

Good for them.

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heather g
heather g4 months ago

Their values are firmly in place. Admirable.

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Carl R
Carl R4 months ago

Thanks!!!!

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Georgina Elizab M
Georgina M5 months ago

GOOD FOR THEM !!!!

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Janis K
Janis K5 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Son Y.
Son Y.5 months ago

Go, nuns!

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Winn A
Winn A5 months ago

Fantastic!!!

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Winn A
Winn A5 months ago

Fantastic!!!

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