What do nuns and alpacas have in common? Visit this Kansas farm to find out!





ARTON COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Imagine a secluded 80-acre farm situated along the back roads of western Kansas. As you walk onto the land, you are greeted by the sounds of the wind, the birds chirping, and the occasional insect flying about.

“Peacefulness isn’t something we conjure up. It’s already here and we kind of protect it in some ways and foster and nurture it too,” said Sister Jane Belanger.

Belanger is one of three Dominican Sisters of Peace who lives and works on Heartland Farm located about 12 miles west of Great Bend, Kan.

“When the Dominicans came here to the Great Bend area there were no hospitals, there were no schools, there were all these immigrants who needed education and healthcare, so that was a need. Now, we are responding to the needs that these times have caring for the planet, growing food, sustaining community,” Belanger explained.

The sisters, with the help of a farm manager and long and short-term volunteers, manage the property. They tend to the gardens, grow fresh produce, which they share at local farmers’ markets, take care of dozens of chickens and raise alpacas for their fleece and their organic compost.

“It really is about being a place of sustainability and of education to our rural area and really beyond. I think it’s learning about our human, earth connection,” she said.

Escape to the farm

“This is a place that can really transform lives,” said Heartland Farm Marketing and Media Coordinator Teresa Johnson.

The farm’s mission goes beyond sustainable gardening and farming. The sisters host community events, retreats and host day and overnight visitors.

“We have an open farm day where people can just come and visit the farm, tour around, walk the trails, see the animals. Just kind of hang out and see what we do. It’s an invitation to enjoy it, but primarily connect with the local community,” Sister Belanger said.

The activities list is a long one. The farm offers everything from breadmaking, beer brewing, canning, pottery, knitting, spinning, cooking, composting, and even massage.

“There are a lot of skills that are kind of falling by the wayside,” said Johnson. “Not a lot of people probably know exactly how sheep’s wool, alpaca fleece becomes yarn, becomes clothing, so those are the kinds of skills we are trying to keep active. You know, there could be a time in the future where we need to have those skills.”

While many people visit the farm to learn a new skill, Belanger said most come to find peace.

“I think if you are looking to heal, sometimes it’s just that. People have been on a rat race or have had a lot of stress. It gives them a chance to simmer down and catch up with themselves,” she explained.

Heartland Farm is located at 1049 CR 390 Pawnee Rock, KS 67567. You can contact the farm for visiting hours, retreat packages, etc at 620-923-4585 or hfarm@gbta.net.

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Siena Learning Center Celebrates New Britain Sesquicentennial

Director Nancy Rodriguez with Desiree Acosta, the Chair of New Britain’s Commission on Community and Neighborhood Development.

The Siena Learning Center joined with more than 1000 of their New Britain neighbors to celebrate 150 years since the city’s founding. The New Britain Street Fair was held September 25 and 26 and featured a Car Show, Kids Zone, Amusements, Food Trucks, Local Vendors, Beer and Wine, Oktoberfest Celebration, Little Poland Celebration, and lots of live music.

The Siena Learning Center shared its educational mission and met with its neighbors throughout the weekend. Thanks to Director Nancy Rodriguez for helping us be a part of the celebration!






Adrian Baron, New Britain Lawyer and Leader in the Polish Community, with Nancy Rodriguez.
Jocelyne Lewis, Administrative Assistant and Richard Jackson, Tutor.
Jocelyne Lewis Administrative Assistant, Nancy Peasely-Driska, Advisory Council Chair, and Nancy Rodriguez.










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Great Bend Bazaar Online Raffle






Proceeds benefit our mission in Nigeria and the economic poor
1 FOR $1 OR 6 FOR $5


Prizes Include:

Gold and diamond ring valued at $1,400






Hand-stitched quilt






Two gift baskets of hand-crafted items







Apple iPad 6th Generation 32 GB








Other raffle prizes include:

  • Waterford Crystal Lamp
  • 4 quarters of beef
  • Hand-Crafted child’s rocker
  • Two $75 Cash Prizes
  • Hand-Sculpted Santa
  • Three $50 Cash Prizes
  • Hand-Turned wooden bowl
  • Two $50 Walmart Gift Cards


Click here to purchase your tickets securely online!


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Sister Rita Schwarzenberger finds exceptional care close to home

Sister Rita Schwarzenberger is no stranger to Kansas, despite having spent most of the past 46 years in Nigeria. Born third of eight children to Michael and Ida Schwarzenberger in Collyer, Schwarzenberger joined the Dominican Sisters of Peace in 1960.

After working in pastoral ministries in the Catholic Dioceses of Dodge City, Salina and Wichita, and teaching school in Pueblo, Colo., Schwarzenberger traveled to Nigeria for the first time in 1975.

Schwarzenberger manages Hope for the Village Child Foundation, a nongovernmental organization that assists rural communities in Kaduna State in north-central Nigeria. Her team runs a health center that focuses on mothers and children, treating conditions such as tuberculosis, malaria, typhoid and HIV/AIDS. They also treat children who are malnourished and who have rickets.

Sister Rita Schwarzenberger presents a certificate to a student in Nigeria for completing a sustainable agriculture course.

The foundation team provides education and literacy materials to children and schools. Farmers learn sustainable farming practices and receive assistance with agriculture loans. Ensuring local communities have access to clean water is an important part of the program as well.

More than 20 years ago, a WaKeeney widow’s donation in memory of her husband funded the first water well the organization provided. Today, the program has built approximately 400 wells in cooperation with local villages.

Sustaining local communities

Schwarzenberger says the work they do is with, in and for the local communities. Sustainability remains a key focus for the team because of the level of poverty in the region she serves. She relies on and is grateful for the generous support that her family, friends and others provide.

Schwarzenberger’s work comes with challenges. One occurred in 2016, when two visitors came to Schwarzenberger’s compound in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the visitors were not aware of the compound’s two guard dogs.

While trying to wrangle the dogs to protect the visitors, Schwarzenberger was pushed to the ground and sustained what she thought were only minor injuries. Three days later, she learned she had broken her wrists. In England, doctors put her wrists in casts and Schwarzenberger flew home to Kansas.

After her arrival in Great Bend, Randall K. Hildebrand, MD, examined Schwarzenberger’s wrists. It was quickly determined they would not heal properly on their own, so Hildebrand performed surgery on her wrists.

Schwarzenberger says during this challenging time, she learned a lot about herself and others.

She was dependent on others to help her with basic care, including feeding her. Through this experience, she says she learned how she might be able to care for others in similar circumstances if she had the opportunity.

Today, when she shares this story, Schwarzenberger happily shows her wrists and says that no one can tell she had surgery.

After a fall in 2020, Schwarzenberger required surgery to repair a crack in her femur. She was unable to travel for medical care due to COVID-19 and had surgery in Nigeria. After her surgery, she spent 30 days in traction.

This experience reminded her of the generosity of the human spirit and caring nature of others, as she was again unable to care for herself.

Complications arose from the surgery performed in Nigeria, so Schwarzenberger returned to Kansas for treatment and again chose Dr. Hildebrand for her care. On Aug. 10, Schwarzenberger’s care team removed the metal from the surgery conducted in Nigeria and completed a hip replacement.

When reflecting on the care she received from Dr. Hildebrand and the team at The University of Kansas Health System Great Bend Campus, Schwarzenberger says everyone has been so kind, professional, and helpful. She remains grateful for the exceptional care she has received.

Central Kansas Orthopedic Group joined The University of Kansas Health System August 30.

“We were happy and honored to be able to participate in the care of Sister Rita as she continues her legacy of working on the front line at the health center in Nigeria,” says Dr. Hildebrand. The team looks forward to offering the best possible orthopedic care for more people.

Schwarzenberger hopes to begin her two-day trip back to Nigeria on Oct. 1. When asked about her return trip to Africa, she says with a true servant heart that she “wants to continue to be helpful while (she) can.”

To learn more about Schwarzenberger’s work with Dominican Sisters of Peace, visit https://oppeace.org.


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Meister Eckhart Center Debuts on Albertus Magnus Founder’s Day

Fr. Kenneth Letoile, OP, Provincial, St. Joseph Province; Sr. Anne Kilbride, OP, Assistant to the President for Dominican Mission; Dr. Edward Dunar, Director, Meister Eckhart Center, Albertus Magnus College;
Fr. Jonathan Kalish, OP, Prior, St. Mary’s Community, New Haven CT
Fr. Jordan Lenaghan, OP, chaplain, Albertus Magnus College
Dr. Marc Camille, President, Albertus Magnus College


September 24 marked the 95 anniversary of the founding of our college in New Haven, CT, Albertus Magnus. Among the celebratory events that took place was the debut of the new Meister Eckhart Center for Catholic and Dominican Life, located in the historic Rosary Hall. The Center was built with the assistance of a major gift from the Dominican Sisters of Peace.

The Center will officially open in March  2022.

To view a video compilation of the Founder’s Day Events, click here.




A conference room at the new Meister Eckhart Center.








Fr. Jonathan Kalish, OP, Prior, St. Mary’s Community, New Haven CT, back; Fr. Jordan Lenaghan, OP, chaplain, Albertus Magnus College, center, and Fr. Kenneth Letoile, OP, Provincial, St. Joseph Province, foreground, explore the new Meister Eckhart Center.
Fr. Jordan Lenaghan, OP, chaplain, Albertus Magnus College, enters the new Meister Eckhart Center.












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