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The Story


Land Acknowledgement

The Cuvilly Arts & Earth Center, located in what is now called Ipswich, is standing on the ancestral homelands of the Pawtucket People. The Cuvilly Arts & Earth Center, a ministry of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, acknowledge that the Pawtucket People were the original inhabitants of these lands having been here for thousands of years with lasting connections to and stewardship of the unceded land and waterways. We would like to pay our respects to the ancestral bloodlines of the Pawtucket People and their descendants who still survive today.

We thank the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness for their guidance in crafting this land acknowledgement statement. To learn more about the Native American homelands on which you live and work as well as Native programming and events in the area, please visit the web site of the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness.


The Cuvilly Arts & Earth Center began in 1984 in Ipswich, Massachusetts on the premises of a former dairy farm currently owned by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

The facility includes:

  • a renovated dairy barn that accommodates a licensed preschool and kindergarten

  • a reconstructed 19th century barn that houses a variety of farm animals

  • a recently constructed yurt

  • a photovoltaic array and wind turbine to supply the Center's electricity

  • several acres of land with fields, pastures, woodland, a pond, gardens and a play yard.


Cuvilly (pronounced coo-vi-lee) draws its name from the rural village in France where the foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Marie Rose Julie Billiart, was born in 1751. Responding to the needs of the time, Julie established schools where girls living in poverty received free education. Her goal was to teach them what they need to know for life. The challenges we face today are very different from those in rural France in the 18th century, but our goal is the same:

"Teach them what they need to know for life."

Sr. Pat shares a story that she calls her “Ah! Ha! “moment. 


“Shortly after I began Cuvilly, I went to the Topsfield Fair and observed a mother hen caring for her chicks. I was reminded of the reference in Matthew 23 ‘How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…’ and decided that we should have chickens at Cuvilly to provide a firsthand experience for our students. We organized a big yard sale to raise money to put up a shed and went about outfitting it with everything chickens would need. Once our state-of-the art coop was finished we went to a local hatchery to purchase some hens and a rooster. In talking with the owner, I told him that I could hardly wait for my hens to hatch out new chicks. He looked at me and said: ‘Oh, that will never happen.  We breed that instinct out of them.’ What a shock! How is it possible to breed the basic instinct of survival out of a species?! 

I bought the chickens anyway determined to prove the chicken farmer wrong. However, as predicted, the hens laid many eggs but never hatched them out. They also decided that the coop we built was not what they wanted and began to explore the campus, finding for themselves the most suitable habitat – often times in trees. Ten years and many chickens later (none of which were born here) an amazing event took place.  While working around the farm I heard a sound I never heard before – a very distinctive “peep. Peep” - and out from underneath the chicken coop emerged a mother hen and her chicks! It was at that moment that I realized the instinct to bring new life into the world was not bred out of the chickens but was merely latent.  Given the proper environment the latent instincts are awakened.  And that is the mission of Cuvilly!  Every human being is an integral part of the earth community and knows, instinctively, how to live in harmony with it.  However, we have developed a culture that has forced these instincts to become latent.  Given the proper environment our instincts will be reawakened.  Cuvilly seeks to create this environment.


Sr. Pat Rolinger SNDdeN - Founder and Executive Director

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