While out walking and gathering discarded cans and bottles I had a dream to link ‘Laudato Si’ to what was already happening to 'care for our common home' in Ballymun, Co. Dublin. I wanted to give others the opportunity to experience the richness and relevance of Pope Francis encyclical during the Month of Creation.
This dream emerged into reality when a few of us, with a deep concern for what is happening to Mother Earth and already involved in caring for our local environment, informally met and began to plan and to take action! We spoke at all weekend Masses. I led the first two evening sessions when we discussed the issues; we deepened our knowledge of the encyclical; we all watched the newly released documentary called 'The Letter' based on Laudato Si.
In our gatherings we used a wonderful format called Partners in Faith which enabled listening, group work, reflection time and ritual. Topics such as recycling were approached in a very practical way by groups working together. Laudato Si statements illustrated and highlighted our reality. We knew that we needed to take stock and act accordingly.
Our second topic focused on biodiversity, sustainability and eco systems which was aptly illustrated by a recent two-part Irish documentary created by a wildlife photographer, Colin Stafford Johnson. He planted a wild garden over two years using only native wildflowers; these were soon attracting butterflies, bees and other insects. Two ponds were dug to cater for the needs of pond life; soon a whole new eco system began to emerge.
Nine species of butterflies, with bees and other insects found their home. Red squirrels, now an endangered species, were spotted there too. Many trees have been planted all over Ireland in recent years and these offer more protection for the red squirrel. The benefits of seasonal pollinator plants such as ivy and heather were highlighted e.g. ivy offers shelter to solitary bees at this time of the year.
Using the photographic expertise of Joan, a Columban Sister, wildflowers around Ballymun were captured beautifully and this generated excitement and wonder in the feedback. The Rediscovery Centre in Ballymun provided us with wonderful pictures of birds, wild animals and red squirrels extending the discussion and engagement further.
Our third session focused on Laudato Si in more detail, backing it up with film clips of sea, land and bird life and how being connected is integral to life. When we become disconnected, the earth's resources are exploited leading to the demise of others, especially those in poorer countries. Pope Francis, in Laudato Si said, 'a sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings"
Dympna, now a grandmother, led this session with profound love and conviction and stressed that being connected is an integral part of caring for our common home. Dympna illustrated this by using a ball of wool and while we gathered in a circle it was thrown and caught within the group, creating a visible web illustrating the web of life. Through this simple but profoundly moving activity we saw how connected and disconnected we can become when there is a break. Everything is connected. Concern for the environment needs to go hand in hand with a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems that are of our own making. Pope Francis says, 'the earth is essentially a shared inheritance whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone'.
Group work in each session was vibrant and alive with solid feedback. What is happening globally influenced and coloured our concerns because of the terrible fires, famine, and floods in so many parts of the world.
Finally, we created our own canticle of praise; we built a focus in each church using appropriate symbols; we brought all the elements together through ritual and we prayed for our earth and all wildlife. We worked in groups and listened, and we celebrated what we are already doing; speakers at Mass reinforced and extended the message.
This year the symbol used in the liturgy for the Month of Creation was 'The Burning Bush' and Moses' response to God's call. Can we too answer: 'Here I am' ? Can we recognise that wherever we are that 'the place on which we stand is Holy Ground'? What are the sandals we need to remove that distance us from creation — our creator?
Let us carry the powerful theme in our hearts and listen to the voice of creation as we walk on this HOLY GROUND.
Sr Pauline Hannon (November 2022)