MONROE, Mich. – You enter the IHM Sisters’ Motherhouse – a convent, retirement home, administrative headquarters, health care center, and national model of sustainable renovation.
How do all those pieces fit together? How did the IHM Sisters’ 166-year story unfold? Take a step around the corner of the lobby and you’ll find out. A tour through the new, state-of-the-art exhibit in the sisters’ Green Room explains it all concisely, creatively, and with electronic pizzazz.
Huge murals covering the east and west walls tell the past and present chapters of the sisters’ story. Six light and airy banners floating from the ceiling impart the magnitude of the educational legacy the IHM Sisters built in southeast Michigan and beyond.
A small theater sits near the center of the room, with 15 seats in semi circles, where visitors can watch a variety of the IHMs’ DVD library on a wide screen TV. Two big and colorful storybooks, mounted on different walls, chronicle two important stories. One narrates the sisters’ nationally recognized sustainable renovation of their 376,000- square-foot Motherhouse and the other illustrates and recounts the magnificent Universe story.
When you first walk into the Green Room, you start at the wall on the community’s history. The wall quote overhead states the sisters’ founding and enduring mission: “We respond to the world’s most pressing needs.” Wall-size murals showcase the community’s first convent, a log cabin on the banks of the River Raisin, and subsequent Motherhouses and St. Mary’s Academy.
You walk through time around this room, a ministry room, really, that tells the sisters’ story, chapter by chapter, wall by wall – from founding, running and teaching in a multitude of Catholic schools to their current diversity of ministries, represented, again, by large murals of photo illustrations depicting the breadth of the world’s needs they’re responding to today.
You finally arrive at a kiosk that invites you to pull up a chair, turn on the computer in front of you and explore the Internet for even more stories and a litany of information. The online menu offers an abundant listing of topics – including how to calculate your own carbon footprint, the text of the Earth Charter, Catholic teaching on climate change and numerous links to resources on sustainability, as well as more examples of the plentiful initiatives the sisters’ have pioneered in the field of sustainability.
If you think the sisters no longer work in the field of education, a walk through the Green Room will convince you otherwise. After their sustainable renovation, the sisters said they wanted their Motherhouse and grounds to serve as a learning laboratory on sustainability.
The Green Room is a classroom fit for students of all ages and interests. Part classroom, modern museum and reflection gallery, it’s a panorama of knowledge for students, historians, scientists, educators, alumni, and local residents alike.