March 20, 2016

Catherine McAuley and Mercy for the Earth Community: Spirituality Day for Educators at Rahamim Ecology Centre

The staff of McAuley Catholic Primary School, Rose Bay, in Sydney NSW, recently made the journey over the UNESCO World Heritage Blue Mountains to spend time overnight at Rahamim Ecology Centre for their annual spirituality day.

The Staff of McAuley Primary School, Rose Bay NSW with Patricia Powell rsm (far left) and Sally Neaves of Rahamim Ecology Centre (far right)

The aims of the experience were to reflect on a number of contemporary themes for the McAuley school community: the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the tradition of Catherine McAuley, and the words of Pope Francis in Laudato Si’, combining quiet time for reflection, ritual, and the Mercy heritage at Rahamim.

The program began with reflection and prayer focused on our material connectedness with our surroundings, especially soil, and on our ‘bone country’, drawing upon the wisdom of the indigenous Wiradjuri people and also Wendell Berry:

'The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life.'

Following sessions worked towards a reclaiming of our tradition in an ecologically aware age. Participants explored the example of Catherine McAuley’s life of transformational Mercy, the contributions of contemporary biblical scholarship (especially Elaine Wainwright rsm and material from chapters one and two of 'The Blessing of Mercy: Biblical Perspectives and Ecological Challenges' by Veronica Lawson rsm) to an understanding of Mercy and materiality, which led to a reflection on the traditional Works of Mercy with an ecological lens and the local and global advocacy work done in a spirit of Mercy and justice.

Participants later explored the Universe Story as our sacred story in a scientific age, using interactive, tactile installations to locate the place of the human within the threshold moments of increasing complexity in an emerging Earth community. This set the context for an exploration of Laudato Si’, particularly Pope Francis’s notion of an all-encompassing Integral Ecology, and what this might look like in a school community.

Beyond the program content, educators spent time immersed in the various ways Rahamim contributes to the building of life-giving relationships within a resilient Earth community. These include space and time to reflect in a natural setting and the many practical choices made around day-to-day items. For example, ethically sourced organic bedsheets, house-grown and produced fresh food from the gardens or local farms, recyclable furniture, voluntary simplicity and hospitality all of which mirror our ecological expression of Mercy values and spirituality.

Messages to: Sally Neaves - Sustainability Educator

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