Monday, July 20, 2020

"The Green Shepherdess in Fairport Harbor offers fair-trade products made around the world "By Bill DeBus

Shanon Sterringer ARCWP is owner of The Green Shepherdess Store in Fairport Harbor. This store offers a variety of fair trade products made around the world. She is pastor of the Hildegard Haus located in Fairport Harbor.

Major influence

..."Sterringer’s inspiration to open The Green Shepherdess is derived from St. Hildegard of Bingen. Hildegard is a 12th-century German Benedictine nun and mystic who became a saint and doctor of the church.
“In the whole history of church, only four females have been named doctors of the church,” Sterringer said. “Hildegard is one of them.”
After making a pilgrimage to Bingen, Germany, to walk in Hildegard’s footsteps, Sterringer returned to Fairport Harbor and opened a retreat center in 2016 called The Hildegarden. Sterringer said launching the center was a practical application of the doctorate degree she was pursuing at the time in Hildegard studies.
The Hildegarden, which was based in the former St. Michael Byzantine Catholic Church in Fairport Harbor, eventually closed in December 2018.
“Because I discerned, at that point, a call to ordained ministry,” Sterringer said. “And I couldn’t do that and still work for the (Cleveland Catholic) Diocese, because the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t ordain women. And so I followed my call to ordination.”
Sterringer traveled to Austria in 2019 and was ordained by the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. She then returned to Fairport Harbor and opened the Hildegard Haus at 630 Plum St. — the same site as the former Hildegarden center.
The Hildegard Haus, according to its website, is described as “the home of The Community of St. Hildegard, an inclusive Christian community where all are welcome to fully participate in the sacramental celebrations.”
“It’s actually an operating church,” Sterringer said, although it has been functioning online only since the onslaught of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
However, Sterringer realized that serving as pastor of the Community of St. Hildegard was a volunteer ministry, and that still left her in a need of job to help support her family.
“My husband and I had a long talk about, if I was going to take a job outside of the village, and I’m very connected to the village, or if I was going to somehow try to do something that I could have an income and a career in the village,” she said.
In deciding to start The Green Shepherdess, Sterringer considered her longtime passion for fair trade, and the fact that a store of this kind could not only draw foot traffic, but also generate online sales globally.
As for choosing the name of the business, Sterringer explained that St. Hildegard is known as The Green Shepherdess.
“For Hildegard, she had a theological term that really kind of permeated her writings,” Sterringer said. “It’s called ‘viriditas’ — a Latin word that means green in power. For her 'green in power' was in part physical — like green in plants and healthy foods — but it was also spiritual and mental.”

Keeping busy

While The Green Shepherdess succeeded in drawing plenty of customers to the store when it opened in February, Sterringer switched to online commerce only starting in mid-March because of health and safety risks posed by the novel coronavirus.
When she welcomed customers back into the store on June 13, Sterringer was pleased by the response.
“The community’s been super supportive,” she said. “We’ve had people coming from Westlake, Cleveland, and different places, and people saying, ‘I follow you on Facebook and I want to see the store.’ So we’ve had a good deal of foot traffic,” she said.
While customers can make purchase online anytime through its website — — Sterringer also has opened the store two days a week for in-person shopping. Hours are 3 to 8 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Overall, she said she’s very happy with her decision to open the store.
“This is very much a ministry as much as it is a fair-trade store,” she said. “And it’s another way, I think, for me to respond to my vocation, in a creative way. It just opens up a lot of conversations and education, as well as ministry, and I just thrive on that.”

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