September 07, 2011

Mercy Global Action Pre-Conference Workshop on Cosmology and the Environment for Young Mercy Leaders

Enjoying a Comfortable Cup of Tea during workshop on Cosmology and Environment at Baggot Street: students from Mercy High School, Omaha, Nebraska with Mary Purcell ( left upper), Assistant Director, Mercy Global Action, Mercy International Center, Ms. Laura Forbes ( left lower) and Ms. Ashley Shrader ( top right.)

Last month, Mary Purcell, Assistant Director, Mercy Global Action, and Aine O’Connor, RSM, interim coordinator of Mercy Global Action at the UN led young mercy leaders from Mercy High School in Omaha, Nebraska in an interactive workshop on MIA’s work on cosmology and the environment.

The workshop began with the proclamation of the promise of the Gospel, “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth.” Students were then introduced to “The Awakening Universe” story. A reflection period followed where the students and their teacher, Laura Forbes, and campus minister, Ashley Schrader, reflected on how their faith and their understanding of the universe story informs their response to the planetary, sustainable development, and climate changes challenges of the 21st century.

Mary Purcell asked, “Why should we be concerned?” She then introduced the students to Mercy projects on the environment. The students heard about the climate change struggles of small islands such as Guam and about the current devastating humanitarian and environmental crisis in the Horn of Africa. Next, they were introduced to the work of the Sisters of Mercy in protecting the environment of the mining industry in Peru. They also learned how Sisters of Mercy in the Philippines educate children on the environment and about the Mercy Centre for Ecology and Justice in Newfoundland. Finally when the work of the Sisters of Mercy USA, Nigeria, Ireland and New Zealand was shared, one student exclaimed, “I didn’t know the Sisters of Mercy were so involved with the environment!”

Sr. Aine then took the students to the United Nations. They heard how the Sisters of Mercy represent the environmental concerns, especially the concerns of the impoverished who are most impacted by climate change and global warming, to this global stage. Students learned about MIA’s participation in the UN preparatory meetings and conferences leading up to the Rio+20 sustainable conference in Brazil, 2012.

After a comfortable cup of tea, the students engaged in a lively and hope filled discussion on what they could do, personally, as a school, and finally at national and global levels to address the environmental, sustainable development and climate issues of our time. Some personal commitments identified included: taking shorter showers; reusing school supplies; picking up trash; and recycling. Others suggested donating their clothes and buying second hand clothing. One student committed to using things until they could no longer be used. She wondered if her computer or her iPod now last longer than she previously thought possible.

 At school, the students envisioned spreading the word about the perils of consumerism and fossil fuel dependency before their assembled student body. They thought about inviting their peers in to group discussions on sustainable and alternative patterns of living that would promote equity and sustainability of all people and Earth. They imagined more exposure to the story of the universe and education on sustainable living in their school curriculum. They asked aloud, “what would it take to start thinking about green careers?” Finally, they conceded to the importance of continued education on the big environmental and climate concerns of the day. In particular, they committed to writing to members of Congress about their environmental and climate concerns.

Messages to Mary Purcell and Aine O'Connor 

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