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Megan Sweas

Writer, Editor, Student of Life

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Environment

Praying for Rain in California

This piece originally appeared in the Yale ISM Review.

“As an American Indian, all my life I have been cursed with the myth of the ‘Indian rain dance,’” Johnny P. Flynn wrote in Religion Dispatches in 2012 when the United States Agricultural Secretary, Tom Vilsack, suggested a rain dance to end a drought. “I am here to say there is no such thing. Not in my Potawatomi tribe or in any other tribe across the Americas.” Weather-related rituals, Flynn wearily pointed out—including the Hopi’s famous late summer dances—recognize the season rather than bring on the rain.

That hasn’t stopped some from trying. Continue reading “Praying for Rain in California”

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Park & re-Creation: Video tour

Published on USCatholic.org, March 2011

Accompanying “Parks & re-Creation”

Parks & re-Creation

Published in U.S. Catholic, April 2011

A group of young people in the Bronx finds that by beautifying an old eyesore, they’ve unleashed a desire to serve their community.

Youth Ministries for Peace and JusticeDavid Shuffler walks through the park that he helped build in the South Bronx on his way to work.

Grass and young trees line his path through Concrete Plant Park, named after the factory that was once on the site. Some of the old factory structures remain—but they’ve been transformed into public art.

On a sunny September afternoon, a young family sits in the grass, a boy casts a fishing line into the Bronx River below the promenade, and a few teens lounge in a reading circle, as Shuffler tours the park with part of his team from Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (YMPJ). Two of the teen workers, Shanay Sneed and Andre Rivera, approach their peers in the reading circle to tell them about YMPJ, the force behind the park.

“My greatest joy is to see people using this park,” says Shuffler, director of YMPJ. “That’s a reward. The environment definitely transforms and connects people just because of its beauty and what it does for your soul, and I think we see it right here.” …

Read more on USCatholic.org

PDF of “Parks & re-Creation”

I’ll be green for Christmas

Published in U.S. Catholic, December 2010

Cover December 2010Let’s not only be green when summer’s here but also during the most wonderful time of the year.

The anticipation was over, the gifts all opened, and nothing left to do except take it all in. Even when I was little, it was one of my favorite moments of Christmas. I’d sit with my loot sorted next to me and survey the living room while peeling the customary orange from my stocking. Red, green, and patterned wrapping paper covered the floor, and the cats, high on new catnip, would be attacking a bow under the tree.

I loved getting the orange, along with an apple and nuts (and chocolate, of course) in my stocking. It felt so Little House on the Prairie, as if these were exotic fruits, a special treat savored in the middle of the winter and not an ordinary purchase at the grocery store. I imagined Pa trekking home from town with brown paper packages—one each for Ma and us girls—getting caught in the blizzard and having to eat our special Christmas treat to survive. Ah, those were the days!

It’s not that I wanted to give up the Nintendo, books, and whatever other toys I got for this frontier fantasy. But at some age I started to see the effect of all my gifts. Eventually my moment of Christmas bliss was over, and we would have to stuff trash bag after trash bag with packages and shiny wrapping paper. According to use-less-stuff.com, Americans produce 25 percent more waste from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, amounting to 25 million tons of extra trash.

Is this any way to celebrate Christ’s birth? …

Read more on USCatholic.org

PDF of “I’ll be green for Christmas”

Religious by nature: An interview with Keith Warner

Edited interview published in U.S. Catholic, April 2010

Keith Warner

Keith Warner, a Franciscan environmental activist, recycles some ancient traditions for modern use.

Read more on USCatholic.org

PDF of “Religious by nature”

Greener pastures

Published in U.S. Catholic, May 2008
Honorable mention for investigative writing, Catholic Press Association 
Honorable mention for feature, Associated Church Press

How family farmers are planting for a sustainable future

Russ Kremer had a near-death experience in 1989. On his central Missouri farm, he was bitten by a hog and contracted a form of strep resistant to at least five antibiotics. His hogs’ feed included antibiotics to protect them—but not humans—from disease.

Doctors cured him, but Kremer decided to start his farm operation anew, raising hogs naturally.

Continue reading “Greener pastures”

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