Sr. Colette Revives LUREC Prairie
Colette Fahrner, a Sister of the Living Word (SLW), is an integral part of the Retreat and Ecology Campus’ history. Before the property was purchased by Loyola and became LUREC, it was St. Joseph’s Seminary and Retreat Center (more commonly known as the “Rez”) from 2000 to 2007. Sr. Colette was known for organizing retreats at St. Joseph’s, but she also worked very hard to maintain the prairie next to the seminary. The two-acre plot had originally been plowed and planted with prairie seeds by a man whose wife had worked at the Rez, but it was Sr. Colette who weeded the prairie, mowed a path through its center, and made sure it was burned regularly as prairies require.
When Loyola purchased the property in 2010, the prairie was in desperate need of a burning, but all attention was diverted to preparing the campus for students. However, LUREC staff members were anxious to meet Sr. Colette – she was recalled with great admiration by McHenry County conservationists. Before long, Sr. Colette was attending LUREC programs and meetings to plan the campus’ future.
Although there was much talk, not a lot was being done to revive the prairie. However, at the insistence of a former student, now an ecological restorationist, LUREC leaders realized the importance of the prairie and began restoration immediately. In October 2012, twenty-seven native species of seed were harvested from the prairie. Some of the species are even among the highest quality prairie plants found in the region – plants like Rattlesnake Master, Indian Plantain, Wild Quinine, Prairie Blazing Star, Wild White Indigo, and Great St. John’s Wort. Oak trees were also restored in order to facilitate the growth of several species of plants.
In April of this year the prairie was burned, and all summer long the LUREC staff has been watching wonderful plants bloom. So far over sixty native plants have been identified, and even more have been discovered that were previously unaccounted for – like Glade Mallow, Nodding Wild Onion, Canadian Milk Vetch, and Wild Senna. LUREC plans to continue collecting seed and spreading it elsewhere on the property – and possibly trading with neighbors.
In addition to the prairie plants, small bur oak trees have begun to grow and are predicted to become the dominant vegetation on the plot many years from now. With the maturation of the oaks, LUREC will begin to look like it did when European settlers began moving into McHenry County.
Sr. Colette has visited the prairie twice this summer, and has approved of the developments at LUREC. Without her help, Loyola’s Retreat and Ecology Campus would not be what it is today.