A new campaign by Catholic nuns in eastern Iowa invites the public to visit. A brochure titled “Sharing Sacred Spaces” includes background on the communities of “women religious” along the Mississippi and SallyAnn McCarthy, spokeswoman with the Sisters of St Francis in Clinton, says the brochure is not aimed at recruiting new members to the religious orders. Once you see the places you might want to go back, she says, for the programs they offer to visitors, but the brochure is aimed at showing guests what the women religious in this area are doing to save the planet and take care of the earth, by doing things that help neighborhoods. In Clinton, the Franciscans have planted 60 acres of tallgrass prairie, and others have done similar plantings in Dubuque, Rock Island and Hiawatha at “Prairie Woods,” and in Wheatland at “Our Lady of the Prairie.” The prairie’s action holds moisture and conserves soil, which she says has an effect on city water-treatment systems in cities including Clinton. Whether their home is called an abbey, mother house, monastery or simply a house in town, McCarthy says it’s really nothing new for the sisters to be involved in their communities. They’d always served the world, she points out, working as nurses and teachers, caring for the poor and homeless “all over the world forever,” but she says now they’re much more into the world and into welcoming people to their world.” Some like Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat have meeting space and overnight accommodations for groups and individuals planning retreat events. There are still some religious orders where the nuns are cloistered — living in a kind of closed community — but even those welcome some guests. The brochure includes a piece about the Trappistine nuns who live in a cloistered convent outside Dubuque, and though they don’t take guests they do have tours of the candy house where they manufacture Trappistine caramels and other candy. The Benedictine monastery in Rock Island has room for two-dozen, and others not set up specifically for guests still welcome visitors when they have some empty rooms. For more on visiting the religious communities, or a copy of the brochure “Sharing Sacred Spaces,” phone McCarthy at (563) 242-7611 or email: [email protected]