On December 1, 2017, visionaries of every sort are gathering together for a day-long blitz at the seven-acre Maryknoll compound in Monrovia to reimagine the space as a model of Earth-centered community.


The Maryknoll Sisters come from a rich, rewarding, and counter-cultural history serving the needs of communities in some of the world’s most desperate places, often at great personal risk. But in spite of a vibrant past, their numbers are in decline. Over the coming years, properties will necessarily be repurposed or closed; missions will be redefined.

The Sisters are therefore teaming up with Pando and collaborating partners (such as individual members of the CSO Strategic Taskforce) to re-envision their work and campus in Los Angeles County – ecologically, socially, and financially. Their aim: to pando the place so that the campus can better meet social justice and sustainability needs across the southland and model what a community of the future in balance with the Earth and its people might look like.

The Plan

The galvanizing idea is to create on the Monrovia compound a living incarnation of the principles of Pope Francis’s encyclical to the world, Laudato Si’. Released in the summer of 2015, the encyclical calls for communities of “integral ecology” where people live in harmony with the Earth and each other. It is a vision that is nearly identical to the one that Pando chair John Cobb calls “ecological civilization.” To get there, Pando creative director John Bielenberg says we have to start thinking wrong.

To our knowledge, Maryknoll Monrovia is the first location to explicitly set out to incarnate this vision. In this effort, we aim to draw upon the talent pool of Los Angeles County CSOs, other social justice and environmental change-makers, and the rich experiences and skillsets of Sisters themselves to create a “resilient village” in a form and format that creates the ultimate self-sufficient community (off-the-grid). We can envision the compound becoming a teaching facility emphasizing personal and institutional resiliency, and an occasional conference center focused on the same.

The physical construct could include an actual multi-generational living community, and in addition include live exhibits addressing agricultural, energy, water and waste generation and treatment along with cutting-edge LEED buildings housing staff, lodging and training elements. Our idea is to model self-sufficient village life, built on the counter-cultural strengths of the Maryknoll tradition and embodying the kind of counter-cultural future that Laudato Si’ describes.

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 of self-sufficiently leading to 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 of resiliency – one that would institutionalize, advance and promote the seismic positive change necessary to preserve our communities for generations to come.

We believe a hopeful vision of the future is possible, and in Pandotopia, we aim to model it for Los Angeles County.