Nationally recognized as models of sustainable living, the IHM Sisters of Monroe now are coming full circle. They are pioneering the emerging trend of "sustainable dying." In August 2009 the sisters carried out their first green burial. IHM Sister Antoinette Ruedisueli, who died on Aug. 16, was the first IHM sister to have opted for a green burial.
Green burial reduces a person's environmental impact after death. A body is not embalmed, nor is it placed in a metal casket or concrete burial vault. Instead, it is placed in a simple, biodegradable casket made of cardboard or a soft wood, such as pine. There is no vault or grave liner. "This is how people were buried for thousands of years," notes Janet Ryan, IHM, a member of the IHM Sisters' Leadership Council. "It's only since just after the Civil War that embalming, metal caskets and concrete vaults became the standard.
"IHM Sisters began requesting the option of green burial several years ago because they want to lessen harmful footprints on the earth," says Sister Ryan.
"We began to research the pros and cons of green burial because it's less earth-toxic than cremation or a more traditional burial. We worked with Rupp Funeral Home in Monroe to determine costs and local ordinances. We also needed to determine how green burials would affect our IHM funeral rituals," Sister Ryan continued. "For instance, because there's no embalming, viewing and burial need to occur quickly after death, and a closed casket may be preferred. In some cases, it may mean that a funeral Mass is celebrated within 48 hours of death or that a memorial Mass takes place after burial." The IHM Leadership Council approved the green burial option in October 2007.
The IHM Sisters are known for their commitment to sustainability. The sustainably-renovated IHM Motherhouse has earned 11 local, state and national awards, including two from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Contact: Molly Hunt at (734) 240-9716
For more information: www.ihmsisters.org