The Three Sisters

A perfect example of Agro-ecology and permaculture

 Did you know that corn, beans, and squash are called the “Three Sisters”? A number of Native American tribes interplanted this trio because they thrive together, much like three inseparable sisters. Instead of single rows of a single vegetable, this method of interplanting introduces biodiversity, which does many things—from attracting pollinators to making the land richer instead of stripping it of nutrients. 

Each of the sisters contributes something different and together, they provide a balanced diet from a single planting. 

  • The corn offers the beans necessary support.
  • The climbing beans pull nitrogen from the air and bring it to the soil for the benefit of all three. 

Image credit: University of Illinois Extension

  • As the beans grow through the tangle of squash vines and wind their way up the cornstalks into the sunlight, they hold the sisters close together.
  • The large leaves of the sprawling squash protect the threesome by creating living mulch that shades the soil, keeping it cool and moist and preventing weeds.
  • The prickly squash leaves also keep away rabbits and other pests, which don’t like to step on them.

Together, they provide both sustainable soil fertility as well as a healthy diet. 

How to Plant the Three Sisters

There are variations to the Three Sisters method, but the idea is to plant the sisters in clusters on low wide mounds rather than in a single traditional row.

Before planting, choose a sunny location (at least 6 hours of full sun every day).

Plant the beans and squash when the corn is between 6” and a foot high.

Information taken from.

Synod 2021-23 update

Members of the hierarchy, clergy, and laity, who have coordinated the diocesan synodal conversations in England and Wales, recently participated in a National Synod Day in Southwark

Closing the day’s proceedings, Cardinal Nichols said “In this upper room, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we have had a unique window on the life of the Church in England and Wales – not complete, but a glimpse, a panorama, that we rarely see drawn together in this way. We are learning the art of listening, the discipline of listening, which does not come naturally, but is something that requires self-control and humility. We are learning that. This is a hugely important quality in the life of the Church which has not always been present.”

A Diocesan Response

While we wait for the National Synthesis, we thought that readers might be interested to compare the overlaps and differences in responses, by reading our very short (500 word) summary of the Report from Salford Diocese here

England to get third Cardinal

(photo from Vatican News)

On Sunday 29 May, Pope Francis announced that Yorkshire-born Archbishop Arthur Roche will be made a Cardinal in a ceremony on 27 August, making him the third English cardinal and one of two cardinals from England eligible to vote in any future conclave to elect a new pope.

Archbishop Roche is one of  21 new cardinals mostly from distant corners of the world, including two Indian bishops, an Italian missionary serving in Mongolia, and bishops in Singapore, Ghana, Nigeria and East Timor. Sixteen of the new cardinals are within the age limit for any future conclave.  Archbishop Roche’s promotion follows his appointment last year to lead Vatican’s department for the Liturgy (see The Portico 42)

The Pope also chose to give a Cardinal’s red hat to Robert McElroy, the Bishop of San Diego, in what is reported by America Magazine as “the biggest surprise of this consistory for the church in the United States”. Bishop McElroy is regarded as one of the strongest supporters of the Pope’s vision for the Church, and his promotion has perhaps also sent a strong message in response to recent controversies about Holy Communion, as Bishop McElroy has been firmly opposed to the withholding of Holy Communion from individuals, widely regarded as the weaponisation of the Eucharist.

How Green are our Parishes?

“Creation is a wondrous gift that God has placed in our hands, so that we may enter a relationship with him and we may recognise in it the imprint of his loving plan.” 

(Pope Francis Video Message for Laudato Si Week)

In the spirit of Laudato Si Week, we asked some of our Cornish parishes how they are ‘living’ Laudato Si. Here are some extracts from their responses:

In St Ives/Penzance, Fr Philip reports that the Parish and School re-cycle as much as they can through a variety of routes (including jewellery, coins and currency, mobile, camera’s & gadgets, stamps), and use Fairtrade goods wherever possible. On the Care of Creation day before lockdown, everyone at Mass received a 10 point leaflet: “10 tips to help our Common Home NOW”, and Fr Philip is now keen to re-convene the Care for Creation group, which used to meet before Covid, to consider ‘The Journey to 2030’ a booklet produced by the Ecological Conversion Group, a lay group of Catholics. Penzance Council’s “Sustainable Penzance” leaflet is recommended to parishioners.

St Austell has been a Fairtrade parish for several years, and recycles old jewellery, watches, cameras, mobile phones via a company which pays CAFOD from the proceeds. Parishioners also made a point of buying local milk in glass bottles for refreshments after Mass. The Justice and Peace group is being revived imminently, so it is hoped to also revive plans to register for the Live Simply award which were put on hold due to the pandemic.

From Liskeard and Saltash, Fr Gilmour writes that the Chemin Neuf Community at Sclerder Abbey, much inspired by Laudato Si, is considering a project to develop community working on the farm and gardens there. Also at Sclerder, a parishioner was involved in the production of  a publication called “The Slow Path with an associated photographic presentation At Your Own Pace. Books were sold at Mass with donations going to the parish’s Refugee Fund. In Saltash, planting and limited mowing is underway to encourage wildlife.

In Truro, Fr John writes that active consideration is being given to solar panels / a ground source heat pump and battery storage of energy – with cost being one of the main holding factors. Fr John himself drives a hybrid electric car and walks wherever he can. Everything that can be recycled is.

Synod 2021-23: “Our journey continues”

Plymouth Synod report:

The Pope’s pleas for us to listen with the ear of the heart (article next page) resonates in Bishop Mark’s foreword to the Plymouth Diocese synod report. Observing that this initial “parish listening” exercise only reached some 10% of the church-going population, Bishop Mark urges us all to listen more intently: “We need to strain our bodies, our ears, and our hearts to reach out, to listen deeply to … voices of those who are not on the road with us, but who are nevertheless our brothers and sisters and who are perhaps silently pleading to us from the side of the road”

Assuring us that “we continue in our ongoing journey as a Precious place of God’s Grace” in these next months, Bishop Mark asks and challenges participants, non-participants and clergy: what can we take forward? How can we walk more authentically with one another? What can assist in giving you the confidence and the energy to be more intentionally part of this journey?

The report itself has 5 sections. Sections 1 and 2 summarise the process and the experience of synodal listening. Sections 3 and 4 do a good and fair job at trying to pick out the key issues as well as reflect the diversity of views expressed, while section 5 Future Growth identifies 6 key challenges that we need to reflect on and respond to as a next step. Encouragingly, it concludes that “ it can be challenging to ‘journey together’ but there is a strong desire to do this…”

England & Wales Diocesan Reports:

Dioceses around England and Wales have now submitted their responses which will be summarised for discernment by the Council of Bishops later this year. 

As well as church governance and structures, local discussions inevitably centred on issues to do with role of the laity and in particular treatment of women, young people, ethnic minorities, LGBT+, the poor and people in irregular relationships; celebration of the liturgy; role of priests; clerical abuse, etc.

Without any unanimity, a number of common themes on synodality begin to emerge, including 

  • how most people welcomed and embraced the actual experience of a synodal process despite suspicion and scepticism. 
  • an acknowledgement that, with some notable exceptions, the synodal process has largely failed so far to include anyone other than a small proportion of regular church attenders. Those marginalised by the Church continue to be excluded from the synodal process so far!
  • a general recognition that this “beginning” process needs to be followed up in parishes and dioceses, and that tools, resources and structures are needed for this.

All the Diocesan Reports for England and Wales can be found here

Echoes from Ukraine

with thanks to David Roper

A distant echo of the horrible war in Ukraine was heard in Truro last month when the Methodist church invited people to attend an evening meeting, and report upon their response to the arrival of refugees in the city.

The chairs on both sides of the aisle were soon occupied and after a short introductory speech from the Minister, three speakers in turn spoke of their personal experiences. These tended to show that no single organized centre existed where those interested in the refugee problem could turn to. Upon an invitation for comments from those seated, it emerged Cornwall Council had not sent a representative to answer questions relating to payments for hosting, or for the educational needs of those of school age; other topics were the danger from people traffickers, Christian charities for pairing refugees with host families and leisure activities available.

It appeared those attending were counted among charity workers, teachers, host families, and three young female Ukrainian refugees who had only recently arrived in Truro.

The outcome was that the meeting ended with names taken from those willing to help, and with the promise of a second meeting, with the Methodist Church having organized itself into a leading role as the centre for Ukrainian refugees, and problems that might arise. 

(See also Ukraine Family Host meet-up)

A Time of Change

Bishop Mark has been appointed by Pope Francis to be the Archbishop of Cardiff, the Vatican announced last Wednesday 27 April. We are sure that our readers, along with many others in Plymouth Diocese, wish him well and will pray for his success in his new role. A Diocesan Mass of Thanksgiving for Bishop Mark will be celebrated at Plymouth Cathedral on Monday, 30 May, at 12 noon. He will be installed in his new post at Cardiff Cathedral on 20 June.

In Truro as with the rest of the Diocese, it is a time of uncertainty for us, as no successor to Bishop Mark has yet been announced. We understand that when Bishop Mark is installed in Cardiff, the Cathedral Chapter of Canons will meet to elect a priest to be our Diocesan Administrator until a new Bishop of Plymouth is appointed by the Holy Father.

Meanwhile, we are asked to pray that the Holy Spirit will both guide all those involved in the process of appointing our new Bishop, and will give the chosen successor the grace and courage to undertake this ministry.

Divine Mercy Sunday Service 24th April

from Deacon Andrew Shute

A group of parishioners met on Divine Mercy Sunday afternoon to follow the lead of St Faustina. We began with the Blessing of our image of Jesus as the Divine Mercy and Fr John was available for Reconciliation. The Blessed Sacrament was placed on the altar and Barbara led the Rosary. Deacon Andrew used parts of the sermon given by Pope John Paul II on the canonisation of Sister Faustina Kowalska on 30 April 2000. The Service was followed by tea in the Church Hall.

Jesus told Sr Faustina: “Humanity will not find peace until it turns trustfully to divine mercy.” Through the work of the Polish religious, this message had first become linked for ever to the 20th century, and its two world wars.

In the various readings, the liturgy shows the path of mercy which, while re-establishing the relationship of each person with God, also creates new relations of fraternal solidarity among human beings. Christ has taught us that we not only receive and experience the mercy of God, but we are also called to practise mercy towards others: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

He showed us the many paths of mercy, which not only forgives sins but reaches out to all human needs. It is not easy to love with a deep love, which lies in the authentic gift of self. This love can only be learned by penetrating the mystery of God’s love. Looking at him, being one with his fatherly heart, we are able to look with new eyes at our brothers and sisters, with an attitude of unselfishness and solidarity, of generosity and forgiveness. All this is mercy! It is not a new message but can be considered a gift of special enlightenment that helps us to re-live the Gospel of Easter more intensely, to offer it as a ray of light to the men and women of our time

“Yes, the first Sunday Easter is the Feast of Mercy,
but there must be deeds of mercy,
which are to arise out of love for me (Jesus).
You are to show mercy to your neighbours everywhere.
You must not shrink from this or try to absolve yourself from it.” (742

Ukraine Host-family Meet-up

A non-denominational meeting was held at Truro Methodist Church on 27th April to support the Cornish community in helping Ukrainian Refugees and their hosts. Five refugees from Ukraine were actually at the event which was attended by almost 100 people, including some half-dozen parishioners from Our Lady of the Portal.

Rev’d Mark Dunne-Wilson led the discussion which covered the different ways in which people can offer help and support – from help to register with a doctor /dentist and making benefits claims to providing the basics for new arrivals, like toiletries.

There is evidently much frustration with the process of bringing people over, but there are now a number of refugees here in Cornwall. Regrettably, Cornwall Council was not formally represented at the event, but attendees were urged to register any help and skills that they might have to offer with the organisers of the meeting.

So if you have skills or support to offer please let us know and we’ll put you in touch.

See also: Echoes from Ukraine