Gathering to review work on Laudato Si
On 28th January 2017 110 Daughters of Charity gathered in their Provincial House in Blackrock Dublin to review their work on Laudato Si. As part of our Province Plan drawn up in 2016, we each committed to ‘ educate ourselves towards a new understanding of our place within the universe in order to have a change of heart and embrace an ethical use of the earth’s resources’ (Province Plan p. 8)
There are 23 local communities of the Daughters of Charity in Ireland and 5 communities in Kenya. Each local community in Ireland and Kenya studied and reflected on the first three chapters of Laudato Si with the help of a study guide prepared for the Sisters to include relevant Vincentian texts. The fruits of our prayer, reflection and discussion was synthesised and shared at our meeting. It was evident that we were beginning to have ‘a change of heart’ and also clear also that we had identified many ways to give expression to this change of heart in real and concrete ways. At this half way point in the year we invited Sr. Catherine Brennan SSL from Eco Congregation Ireland to speak to us about the work of this organisation. She is currently chair of Eco Congregation Ireland and works with a Committee who have Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Church of Ireland and Quaker representatives on it. Their work is primarily to inform, promote and educate people in relation to ecological issues and to raise awareness re the environmental challenges of today.
Sr. Catherine began her presentation by quoting the passage fromMark 16:15 ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole of creation’. She said that this is our call today. Pope Francis has said clearly in the encyclical that ‘Christians are called to, ‘an ecological conversion whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them’ LS 217 She also reminded us that care of the earth is now a central aspect of Catholic Social Teaching, ‘It is my hope that this Encyclical Letter, which is now added to the body of the Church’s social teaching can help us to acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face’. LS no.15 Catherine said that the encyclical is a social justice document rather than an environmental one. It is also one that calls us to become more aware of the beauty of creation.
‘God sleeps in a stone
Dreams in a flower
And awakens to life in all of humanity’
(Ibn al ‘Arab)
Having heard a summary of the work that we had done to date, Catherine affirmed us for the awareness raising that we had experienced through our reading and sharing of the encyclical and gave us affirmation and encouragement to continue in our efforts to take small steps to realise the real and concrete ways in which we were already making small changes in our lives. She said that our responses would be personal, ascetical and prophetic and if we were all faithful in small ways to our commitment then great things could happen!
She explained the four aspects of the work of Eco Congregation and ways in which we could expand the work that has already begun; Spiritual, Practical, Community and Global.
During question time she was asked to explain the purpose of the Justice Climate Candle which Eco Congregation Ireland are inviting people to host for a particular event. The idea is to shine a light on Climate Justice. The initiative was launched at the National Ecumenical Prayer Service for COP 21 in the presence of the President Michael D Higgins in November 2015. The candle has already visited 30 different Dublin parishes and is continuing its journey throughout the country. Parishes, congregations, and study/prayer groups are asked to focus on Climate Justice for the week that they have the candle.
We have asked to host this candle for a special event that we’re having on June 10th during which our Province will commit to one real and concrete Action throughout the next 5 years.
To host the Justice Candle on this day would be a great honour for us and would help us to ritualise a new phase on our journey as we as a Province commit to this Action.
To conclude, the core message of the encyclical Catherine said is found in no. 10 LS which states, ‘there is an inseparable bond between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society and interior peace’. This resounds strongly with our charism she said, ‘Caritas Christi Urget Nos’.
That is why the challenge for us as members of the Vincentian Family is so relevant and pressing. In this the 400th year of the birth of the charism I think St. Vincent would urge us to embrace the challenge of Laudato Si. The cry of the earth is the cry of the poor.
Thank you Catherine for your lively enthusiastic and informative presentation to us. Your energy and commitment gave us new heart and courage to keep going. It was a truly inspiring afternoon which we greatly appreciate.