CALEDONIA — Kansas native Sister Rejane Cytacki took over as executive director of the Racine Dominicans’ Eco-Justice Center on July 23.
The center, founded in 2004, is dedicated to environmental education and care of Earth in the context of community, contemplation, creativity and cultivation.
Cytacki, a professed member of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, holds a master’s degree in earth literacy and has been an environmental educator for more than 10 years.
Before coming to Racine, she served as assistant campus minister at the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas. Cytacki, from Leavenworth, entered the sisterhood in 2005.
She recently took a break from her work at the center, 7133 Michna Road, to answer some questions about her new job, her new home, and trying new food.
What made you decide to take the job at the Eco-Justice Center? What intrigued or interested you in the position?
My background is in environmental education and I have a master’s degree in Earth Literacy from Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods College in Terre Haute, Ind. While I was getting my master’s degree, I spent about six weeks interning at the White Violet Eco-Justice Center in Terre Haute and loved my time there. An Eco-Justice Center is a wonderful place to engage in hands-on environmental education in so many different realms from growing food, learning about renewable energy and animal life-cycles.
How did you decide you become a sister? What did your friends and family think about the decision?
When I was a college student, the values of community, prayer, and service became very important to me. After college, I did several years of service, lived in different communities and began to get to know religious women’s communities. When I returned to Kansas City, I came to know the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth and had an opportunity to live with them in community. They had a vitality and joy that superseded their age and I knew I wanted to be a part of their community. It was surprising to see which family and friends were supportive right away and which ones needed time to understand my decision.
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How have your first three weeks been at Eco Center? Anything surprising?
I have learned a lot in my first three weeks. I have more experience in gardening than I do with animal care. The beauty of this position is one never knows what a day could hold. My first days involved helping put up 75 bales of hay in our barn and spending time with our campers in our Ecology Camp on the farm.
Tell us why earth education and earth literacy are important? Why do you think people need to know about it?
In our world with ongoing climate change, it is vitally important that people of all ages educate themselves about how our earth works. Our lives have a tendency to be so busy that we forget how interconnected we are with all life on our planet. One of the best ways to start is by making a smaller natural resource impact on our earth. Coming to an Eco-Justice Center is one place to see an example of smaller impact living and to gain knowledge in locally grown food, renewable energy, and care/reverence for our earth.
What are your impressions of Racine so far?
Besides my car being in a hit-and-run last week — no one was injured, thank goodness — it has been terrific. I have enjoyed some delicious kringle and food, especially cheese curds! I have been to North Beach, and explored some of the biking trails. I love it!
Any immediate plans for tweaks, changes or new programs at the center?
This fall we are offering the Healthy Eating, Healthy Living Program for third graders attending SC Johnson, Wadewitz, Giese, Knapp, Julian Thomas and Janes elementary schools. This is fully funded, including transportation, through the SC Johnson Foundation. Interested teachers can contact us at 681-8527. I am also a trained facilitator for environmental education curriculum Projects WET, WILD, and Learning Tree and would love to offer training for K-12 educators.