On July 17 and 18, 2018, seven congregations of women religious from across the country will meet at the 7 ½ acre compound of the Maryknoll Sisters in Monrovia, CA to help rethink the connection between mission, resources, and properties in light of a vision of integral ecology as outlined  in Pope Francis’s encyclical to the world, Laudato Si’.  (Please note that this Blitz event is by invitation only.)

We describe the reimagining process as nothing less than Thinking Wrong.  Legendary designer John Bielenberg, author of Think Wrong, the book, will lead the two-day event.

Philosophical theologian John B. Cobb, Jr., member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-editor of the first volume of responses to appear on Laudato Si’, will frame the conference in philosophical perspective.  Additional collaborators associated with Pando will participate as facilitators for the Think Wrong exercises and provide further perspective.

The July convening will be the second in a series of what we call PANDOTOPIA Blitzes – opportunities to think wrong in the company of the most passionate, informed, and creative people we can bring together to focus on integral ecology.  The first event, tracing to December 1, 2017, gathered visionaries of every sort to conceive a proposal for reimagining the Maryknoll Monrovia compound as a test-case model for incarnating the vision of Laudato Si’.  The ideas conceived at that time have recently been green-lighted for experimental implementation in Monrovia.

The July conference will discuss these plans, seek broad input, and imagine the applicability and potential impact of Thinking Wrong on communities of religious nationwide and on the local communities of those attending. This opportunity comes at a time when religious communities are re-imagining how their resources can be connected in service to the future of their mission, charism, and legacy.

The conference is for members of religious communities and is by invitation only.

Background

“At this point, we either re-think everything or give up hope. So we’re re-thinking.”
– John B. Cobb, Jr.

Congregations of women religious offer an extraordinarily rich and counter-cultural heritage serving the common good.  At this time, in a world filled with noise, pollution, and in-justice at every level, women religious are being called, louder than ever, to be a prophetic voice in reimaging how the world can take a different path than the one it is on now.  They can do this because of their understanding of the inter-connectedness of all elements in the universe and the richness of their charisms.   The founders of and collaborators with Pando Populus also share a vision for an alternative outcome for the future, one that is distinctly aligned in its concept with the vision for an integrated, unified, and inclusive “civilization” – a vision shared by many communities of women religious.

Pando Populus was conceived and organized around the idea that there is an alternative to modern industrial life, and that in order to avoid catastrophic conditions we must seize an alternative way of thinking and living. That “alternative” is an ecological worldview.

For many years, pockets of activity have organized to reduce climate change, save endangered species, curb poverty, cap the influence of financial markets, bring about democratic accountability, reduce militarism, and so on.

What is missing is a new paradigm that integrates these various concerns and activities and sets them in the context of a broader vision.

Such was the work of philosophers up until the 20th century. But today, many have given up the task of thinking holistically about the world, or proposing anything like new foundations for a civilization that take us in a different direction; and few attempt to integrate thought with action.

PANDOTOPIA Blitz is an opportunity for representatives from a variety of congregations of women religious and Pando Populus to begin “re-thinking” together, by Thinking Wrong, about a new paradigm – one with integral ecology at its heart – and what this might mean for mission, charism, and legacy at local levels.

Testcase Monrovia: The Plan

"Pando launched with the biggest of big ideas - to rethink civilization with the Earth in mind. We're now bringing those ideas down to Earth in LA County."
– John Bielenberg

The Maryknoll Sisters intend to work with Pando and its collaborating partners to re-envision their work and campus in Los Angeles County – ecologically, socially, and financially.

In this effort, we aim to draw upon the talent pool of Los Angeles County Chief Sustainability Officers (see members of the CSO Strategic Taskforce), other social justice and environmental change-makers, and the rich experiences and skillsets of Sisters themselves.

We envision the compound becoming a laboratory for experimentation, a model of best practices, and a center for training a new generation of leaders capable of replicating the model elsewhere.

The physical construct in Monrovia could include a multi-generational living community, as well as live exhibits addressing agricultural, energy, water and waste generation and treatment along with cutting-edge LEED buildings housing staff and training elements. We would like to replicate self-sufficient village life.

The financial model could include trainings (and possibly subject-matter certifications), residencies, and grants from corporations, foundations and government entities interested in seeding this vision for positive environmental and social impacts. Faculty and in-residence fellowships could be established to maintain a vibrant living and learning environment.

We aim to utilize this eco-system facility as a living repository (physical and digital), housing the learnings and output of the works emanating from the Pope’s encyclical, the L.A. City and County sustainability plans, city-specific efforts, and corporate and non-profit programs.

The ultimate vision is to develop a prototypical community – one that would institutionalize, advance, and promote seismic positive change.

We believe a hopeful vision of the future is possible, and in Pandotopia, we aim to explore what it might mean for Maryknoll in Monrovia, for Los Angeles County, and for communities of religious across the country.

PANDOTOPIA Blitz is a presentation of Plante Moran and Pando Populus in collaboration with John Bielenberg, founding director of the Think Wrong Institute at the University of Kansas.