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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Noisy Cloister For Rent

Air Date: Week of September 25, 1998

- Last December, we brought you the story of the Nova Nada Carmelite Hermitage, near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The Hermitage is cloistered in a forest near the lands of the giant timber holdings of the J.D. Irving Company , and the chainsaws disrupt the silence that is central to their contemplative way of life. So the Hermitage residents asked for a two-mile no-logging zone around their retreat. J.D. Irving agreed to the first mile, but not the second. Further talks have failed, and this week, Nova Nada’s ten brothers and sisters are packing their bags and abandoning their home for what they say will be at least a year-long sabbatical. Mother Tessa Bielecki, co- founder of the Monastery, tells Steve Curwood that the Hermitage residents don't object to logging per se.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Last December we brought you the story of the Nova Nada Carmelite Hermitage near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The hermitage is cloistered in a forest near the lands of the giant timber holdings of the J.D. Irving Company, and the chainsaws disrupt the silence that is central to the contemplative way of life. So the Hermitage residents asked for a 2-mile no-logging zone around their retreat. J.D. Irving agreed to the first mile, but not the second. Further talks have failed, and this week Nova Nada's 10 brothers and sisters are packing their bags and abandoning their home for what they say will be at least a year-long sabbatical. Mother Tessa Bielecki, co-founder of the Monastery, tells me the Hermitage residents don't object to logging per se.

BIELECKI: We work the woods ourselves in sustainable ways that are consistent with our way of life. It's the high-tech, heavily industrialized type of logging that's going on that is completely antithetical to our being here.

CURWOOD: Why are you leaving now?

BIELECKI: It is just so painful here, not only because of the noise which we hear outside in our woods, but the very struggle itself has become destructive of our way of life. And we just need a very serious break.

CURWOOD: Now let me ask you this. I understand that in May, J.D. Irving said look, we'll leave a 2-mile buffer zone alone for 5 years, and every sixth year we'll come in and log for about 3 months. Now, as I understand it, you decided that that wasn't enough. Why not?

BIELECKI: It is unacceptable to us because all it does is postpone a final solution. I mean, how would you feel if you were required to move away at your own expense, shut down your whole business and it's also important to realize that we earn our livelihood here. What if this were a resort or a school or a hospital? And would anybody else be required to shut down and go away so that this monstrously wealthy company could do what it wants to do? There's a lot of dark aspects to this.

CURWOOD: What's dark?

BIELECKI: Well, it's just much more than meets the eye. It's not about the logging. It's about not giving in. We have really learned a lot about how what's happening here at Nova Nada at our Monastery is a microcosm for what's happening around the province of Nova Scotia, all of Canada, which is now known as the Brazil of the North, and then of course throughout the world.

CURWOOD: Is it consistent with your beliefs to engage in political struggle?

BIELECKI: Yes, it is. I think there's a very false impression of monks and certainly of hermits. You know, even if you look up the word "hermit," I did this once and it was a dictionary from the mid-50s. And the definition of a hermit was someone who hates people and is antisocial, withdraws from society completely, and lets his hair grow and his fingernails grow long and never washes. Well, you know, we just roared over this description. The genuine hermit is nothing like this. The hermit moves into solitude, first of all, to pray for the world, to be a witness to the world, and then to provide the world with a silent and solitary place for other people to come. And we certainly live in a very noisy, frantic, increasingly insane society. And part of what our life does is model balance and sanity to a very neurotic world.

CURWOOD: Well, I want to thank you for taking this time with us today. Mother Tessa Bielecki is the abbess mother of the Nova Nada Carmelite Hermitage near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Thank you very much.

(A bell tolls)

BIELECKI: Thank you, Steve. It was a good pleasure talking to you.

 

 

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