September 23, 2011

Global Action Lived Locally: A Case Study from Ireland

The Northern Province of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland has a small ecological initiative at ‘Glor na Mara’ in Bundoran Co. Donegal.

Our vision is around exploring new ways of educating and awareness-raising towards a new worldview appropriate for our times and especially in the present environmental and global economic crisis. It is urgent to reconnect with Earth at a deeper level with a new consciousness of living in an interconnected web of life. We promote an awareness place and belonging, with a profound sense of the Sacred in all of it, in the context of a meaningful and inspiring new origin story - the awesome evolutionary Story of the Universe. We are very much aware of the need for a spirituality shaped by the bigger picture and the interconnectedness of the whole community of life here. Out of this context we explore sustainable lifestyle choices.

Community Garden/Allotments: Our aim is to promote among the local people organic growing as a more sustainable and wholistic way of relating to the Earth, connecting people with the miracle of topsoil and helping them connect to the life support systems on which we depend. We promote biodiversity on the land and how it underpins the processes that make life possible. We see our initiative as a response to some of the questions and struggles of our time re global warming, peak oil and the approaching inevitability of the end of an oil-based economy. We are very much aware that as oil becomes unaffordable we will have a food crisis affecting everyone, hence the need to plan towards the future when all food will have to be grown locally without chemicals.

It is about sowing the seeds of an alternative local economy as opposed to the global growth economy which is coming to an end. The training of local people by a gardener, involves hands-on experience in the garden as well as theory on the principles of organic growing. There are sessions on cooking nutritious organic food, enabling them to grow and cook their own vegetables/fruit/herbs. All of this is an important way of re-skilling local people. We also have big demand for Allotments here so we offer local people space to grow their own food using organic principles and to take responsibility for their own plots.

There is Provincial involvement in "The Peace Project" in Castleblayney, where they have set up three community gardens. Other members of the Province are involved in growing their own vegetables, setting up school gardens, involvement in various aspects of Horticulture to Fetac level and in GIY (Grow it Yourself). This is a not-for-profit organisation trying to establish local food growers groups in every town in Ireland, giving them the skills they need. One group in Ardee is also involved in bee-keeping.

Transition Towns: Some members of the Province are involved in setting up Transition Towns in Meath, Monaghan and Donegal. This involves the whole town/village/rural community planning towards a future without oil and is a very empowering way for the whole community to move forward together. We see it as long term planning towards the alleviation of poverty and systemic change. Transition Towns lead to the rebirth of local communities, who will work to protect the environment alongside generating their own sustainable energy systems, local food, organic growing, housing, small businesses and the development of local currencies to keep money in the local area. An important part of the movement is the whole town working together on an energy descent plan, seeing how they can reduce their carbon footprint. This is not about returning to the distant past; far from doom and gloom it is about empowering resilient, dynamic and creative local communities for the rocky road ahead. (Website

Living Systems: As a Province we have more recently been exploring the Living Systems of the Natural World: how we are embedded in them and what they might be saying to us about deep change and a more viable way forward.

‘Be the Change’ Some members of the Province are trained in this symposium which promotes an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just presence on planet Earth. It brings together spirituality, the environment and social justice in the context of the New emerging Universe Story.

Green Sod Land Trust: We have involvement with the other provinces and lay people in setting up and developing this Trust, whose purpose is to acquire and manage land in Ireland to protect its ecosystems into the future.

Earth Wisdom Group: Our care of the earth group is now known as Earth Wisdom and since this group has in recent times been reconfigured with new members, it was decided to spend time integrating and embodying the new consciousness into our own lives in various creative ways. This we have been doing through ritual, body work, dance, music, tai chi and meditation in order to help awaken the Earth energy within and to facilitate a shift in consciousness into a new world view. They have also had input on the New Cosmology and shared resources. A sub group is presently working on bringing our Congregational Environment Policy out to the Province.

Healing/Energy work: A number of members of the province who are involved with alternative healing, energy work, body work, breath work and self care, are doing this in the wider context of the new consciousness and the interconnectedness of all of life using various creative processes.

Retreats/workshops/courses/work with other congregations/groups nationally/internationally, offered on the following areas: Awakening to the spirituality of a new earth consciousness and the Story of the Universe, Searching for A New Planetary Vision, Poverty and the wider Cosmic Vision, Healing self and the planet within the context of the new consciousness, Exploring worldviews, Living Systems and Change, Irish Bishop’s pastoral ‘Cry of the Earth.’

Teaching/Training Packs: We have produced a teaching pack (in collaboration with the Western Province) for secondary schools entitled ‘Out of the Stars,’ on Exploring a New Relationship with the Earth and Universe. We are involved with CEIST in bringing out this module for schools in the Trust. We also developed a pack for the ‘Lifestart’ Programme (for parents of 0-4 year olds) on helping to introduce children in their early years to the wonder of Earth and the Universe Story, as the wider context for their programme.

Messages to Mary Kate Hagan rsm

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