Spiritual Directors International

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Planting Trees

Spiritual Directors International Plants Trees

One generation plants the trees
Another gets the shade
      —Chinese proverb

In our commitment to going green, we’re proud to be:

  • publishing many of our educational publications online;
  • relying on e-mail communications over paper mailings; and
  • encouraging the community to make use of SDI’s online resources as much as possible.

Going green is about more than using fewer resources—it’s also about giving back resources to a world that has given much to each of us. That’s why Spiritual Directors International plants trees.

We’ve been publishing Presence journal, educational resources, newsletters, books, and much more for more than twenty-five years. Trees help SDI reach out and share wisdom with the world, and we give thanks by returning the favor. Every one of us participates in shaping a world that supports life that flourishes. We invite you to join SDI’s commitment to foster forests by planting trees.

Will you join Spiritual Directors International in planting trees? Your gift to the SDI Tree Planting Fund will contribute to keeping Earth beautiful. Planting trees is an act of gratefulness, generosity, and generativity. Donate now to help SDI plant trees.


Trees Around the World

Below are trees that have been planted over the years by SDI. Click on the photograph to enlarge it. If you have updated photographs or stories about an SDI tree, please e-mail them to programs@sdiworld.org.

2017: Guelph, Ontario, Canada

"The tree planting ritual was a highlight for me at the SDI Contemplative Retreat. During the three day retreat, Loyola House staff (Guelph, Ontario) had encouraged us to get intimately acquainted with the land. It was a warm afternoon when thirty-five participants made their contemplative trek across the highway to the protected forest on the Loyola House property. There we met Martin Tamlyn, the Old Growth Forest Coordinator. His passion for the restoration of the creek and the forest was palpable. He explained that Loyola House has committed to restoring ninety-three acres of its land to old-growth forest. Local school children had planted the seeds and now the tree seedlings were ready to be planted.

Martin led us through the forest to an open field, or so I thought. When I looked closer, I realized there were twenty-nine tree seedlings in six-inch pots waiting to be planted. Martin had collected shovels and prepared mulch for the tree planting. He demonstrated how to plant an oak tree: first you dig a hole the size of the pot, then you remove the seedling from the pot and place it in the hole, and then, with your hands, you carefully return the soil to the roots of the seedling. Finally, you place a two-foot square piece of cardboard at the base of the seedling to keep the grass from taking the precious nutrients needed for the tree. On top of the cardboard you pour two buckets full of mulch to keep the moisture in the ground for the small tree. Once the tree is established, the cardboard and mulch will disintegrate, having served their purpose.

After we had lovingly planted all the trees, Tarcia Gerwing, a spiritual director at Loyola House, led us in a prayer of thanksgiving to the trees. Sue Campbell led us in an action song. To close the ritual, Yvonne Prowse encouraged us to picture the tree planting in our mind’s eye. In 500 years, this will be a forest again and we were part of its birthing."

—Miriam Frey

2016: Iona, Scotland

During the 2016 Multi-faith Pilgrimage to Iona: Listening to the Wisdom of the Island, pilgrims dedicated the ground where a wych elm tree was later planted. Wych elm trees, often referred to as Scots elm, are native to the United Kingdom and will provide beauty and shade for generations of pilgrims to come. Pilgrim Guide Sally Taylor planted the tree when the ground was soft and able to receive it.


2016: Tijuana, Mexico

During the 2016 Emerging Wisdom educational event’s contemplative retreat, participants planted a brugmansia tree, also known as an angel's trumpet tree. The tree was planted in honor of Liz Budd Ellmann's years of service to Spiritual Directors International. The tree will serve as a focal point in front of a new building at Casa Manresa.

2015: Louisville, Kentucky, USA

During the 2015 Emerging Wisdom educational event’s contemplative retreat participants planted a tulip tree at the the Nazareth Retreat Center in Bardstown, Kentucky. The tulip tree is the state tree of Kentucky and fit perfectly on the lush grounds of the monastery.





April 2014: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

Ghost Ranch served as the perfect location for the contemplative retreat during the 2014 Emerging Wisdom educational events. Retreat participants planted a fruit tree in the high desert to add life and light to the incredible Ghost Ranch orchard.





June 2014: Iona, Scotland, United Kingdom

During the 2014 Interfaith Pilgrimage to Iona: Listening to the Wisdom of the Island, pilgrims dedicated the ground where a wych elm tree was later planted. Wych elm trees, often referred to as Scots elm, are native to the United Kingdom and will provide beauty and shade for generations of pilgrims to come.



September 2013: Bingen, Germany

Pilgrims on the SDI Interfaith Pilgrimage: In the Footsteps of Hildegard of Bingen blessed a cypress tree at the Abtei St. Hildegard. The tree was later planted on the grounds by the sisters at the Abbey.



April 2013: St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

Contemplative retreat participants at the 2013 Cultivating Compassion educational events planted an eastern white pine tree at the Episcopal House of Prayer. The Episcopal House of Prayer sits on five lovely, wooded acres where the new eastern white pine will flourish.



May 2012: Assisi, Italy

Pilgrims on the Interfaith Pilgrimage: Cultivating Compassion with Saint Francis and Saint Clare blessed an olive tree gifted to Cittadella Ospitalità, the retreat center where pilgrims stayed.





April 2012: Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Cultivating Compassion educational events retreat participants planted a pear tree at Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

April 2012: Silver Bay, New York, USA

Alumni from the Art of Spiritual Guidance program, board members from the Silver Dove Institute, and staff of the Silver Bay YMCA joined Rev. Bruce Tamlyn (L) and Carol A. Fournier to bless and plant a Japanese red maple in Silver Bay, New York.

October 2011: North Andover, Massachusetts, USA

SDI and the coordinating council met at the Rolling Ridge Retreat Center in North Andover, Massachusetts to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first International Peace Day. They planted a paper birch tree with multiple trunks.





May 2011: Atlanta, Georgia, USA

SDI participated in the celebration of Earth Day at Ignatius House in Atlanta, Georgia by planting two azaleas.

The SDI coordinating council proclaimed scripture, poetry, and stories about the importance of being in nature and respecting all creation from Aboriginal Australia, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions.

Local Atlanta community members helped to plant the azaleas. Participants watered Earth and the azaleas with water blessed during the Cultivating Compassion educational events. The water came from all over the world as participants from five continents contributed water to a blessed bowl during the education events. Read more on the SDI Blog.

October 2010: Palestine

During the 2010 SDI Interfaith Pilgrimage for Peace to Israel and Palestine, pilgrims planted an olive tree on behalf of peace in a small Palestinian village in sight of the controversial wall being built by the Israel government to enclose Palestinian territories. The olive tree represents the long road to peace that still lies ahead. Olive trees take a long time to mature and bear fruit, as does peacemaking.


September 2010: Winter Park, Florida, USA

SDI planted three trees at the opening day of Audire, a spiritual formation program for spiritual directors. These trees were presented in gratitude for Br. David Liedl who served for three years on the SDI coordinating council. At his request, the San Pedro Center in Winter Park, Florida was the planting site since it was the location of his training as a spiritual director through Audire.

September 2010: Bellevue, Washington, USA

On International Peace Day, SDI planted a cedar tree that was blessed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace to continue a long tradition of giving back to this beautiful earth. SDI gave the gift of a cedar tree as well as a peace pole in gratitude for sharing office space. Read more about it on the SDI Blog.



April 2010: San Francisco, California, USA

The coordinating council blessed an oak tree during the SDI twentieth anniversary celebration at Gratefulness: The Heart of Spiritual Care educational events in San Francisco, California.

The oak tree was planted at the contemplative retreat at Mercy Center, where SDI began twenty years ago. Read more on the SDI Blog.




December 2009: Kew, Victoria, Australia

We celebrate with deep gratefulness the planting of an oak tree, as a symbol of gratefulness from SDI to Australia. Read more about the tree planting ceremony at the Campion Retreat Centre on the SDI Blog.




December 2009: Dublin, Ireland

SDI planted two trees in Ireland in gratitude for the hospitality extended during the 2009 Being Present educational events in Ireland. An aspen tree was planted at the Milltown Institute and a hazel tree was planted at An Coi—both native Irish trees. Read more about the ceremony on the SDI Blog.

April 2009: Houston, Texas, USA

During the 2009 Being Present educational events, SDI gave an azalea to be planted at The Cenacle Retreat Center.







October 2008: Arequipa, Peru

SDI planted a lemon tree in Arequipa, Peru during the SDI Interfaith Pilgrimage to Machu Picchu. Patricia Roberts is pictured helping plant the lemon tree.






2007: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Following the 2007 Coming Home to the Cosmos educational events, two trees were planted. First, to thank keynote speaker Brian Swimme, a tree was given in honor of Brian’s father..

To thank the conference spiritual director, Alexandra Kovats, CSJP, a serviceberry tree was planted on the peace path at the Peace and Justice Retreat Center of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace in Bellevue, Washington, USA. Several years later, the tree is doing well! Read about it on the SDI Blog.

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