Mercy to Earth: A Full and Varied Programme Witnesses to the Sacredness of All Creation
Editor: September this year could be labelled ‘climate emergency action month’ given the number of global events addressing this issue, so what better timing could there be for the Mercy to Earth programme at Baggot Street? Held from 9-13 September, the participants from Aotearoa New Zealand, Samoa and Ireland heard from presenters in person (Margaret Daly-Denton, Nellie McLaughlin rsm, Carmel Bracken rsm, Mary Reynolds rsm, Anna Nicholls rsm, Anne Walsh) and online (Chris Hill, Marianne Comfort, Angela Reed rsm). It was a full and varied programme with morning prayer and two or three speakers presenting each day. Other highlights included Eucharist, a film followed by discussion and a visit to Glendalough, the monastic site founded by Saint Kevin in the 6th century. Situated in a glaciated valley with two lakes, this picturesque natural location was a perfect destination in the Season of Creation.
Margaret Daly-Denton, author of the Earth Bible Commentary on John’s Gospel, introduced participants to some of the themes of John’s Gospel. Her Focus: Jesus as Gardener who does God’s creating and sustaining work in the garden of the Earth and calls on us his disciples to share in that work.
Margaret will be offering a week long programme ‘Jesus as Gardener’ at Baggot Street in 2020. Further information can be found here.
Nellie McLaughlin rsm, author of ‘Out of Wonder: The Evolving Story of the Universe’ and most recently of ‘Life’s Delicate Balance: Our Common Home and Laudato Si’, chose as her topic ‘Climate Change and Biodiversity Crisis: Impossible Challenge for the Modern World?’
‘Exploring this challenge with the ‘Mercy to Earth’ participants was a soul-searching and hope-filled experience’, said Sr Nellie. ‘In light of the major crises in our current reality there is urgent need for transformative action. Drawing on the wisdom of the universe and earth -God’s creative energy at work - of scripture, mystics, poets and particularly Laudato Si’, we explored possible ways forward to make the impossible possible for the health and wellbeing of the entire community of creation.’
Angela Reed rsm, Mercy Global Action Coordinator, made an online presentation on issues related to the global water crisis. Drawing on the work of theologians Elizabeth Johnson and Cristiana Peppard, Angela outlined some overarching eco-justice concepts. Following this, participants viewed the movie trailer, 'Flow’ and engaged in a discussion on water justice, including the different advocacy strategies that Mercy Global Action has participated in.
Carmel Bracken rsm chose as her topic 'Healing the Inner-Net of the Heart'. 'If we do the inner work we do the outer work', said Carmel, 'for when you heal yourself, you heal the whole.' Carmel's presentation included poetry around healing and meditation, practices for healing and body work for self healing and planetary healing.
Marianne Comfort, member of the Institute of the Americas Justice Team, spoke about the Institute’s educational and advocacy efforts around the climate crisis and the impact of extractive industries on Earth and vulnerable peoples, especially indigenous communities. She shared the Institute’s Mercy Meatless Mondays campaign and preparations for the upcoming global climate strikes. She also described a series of listening sessions the leadership team has organized to hear the voices of communities experiencing environmental degradation, public health problems and human rights abuses due to extractive industries.
Chris Hill, Environmental Sustainability Manager from ISMAPNG, presented on the Institute’s Divestment process to remove fossil fuel related companies from their Investment portfolio. This is stage 1 of a 4 stage approach. Chris highlighted the steps taken to remove both Direct and Indirect investments and emphasized that this is a long term plan with full Divestment expected within 3 to 5 years. The Institute’s Sustainable Living Policy implemented to ‘care for our common home’ has Investment as one of the key themes and the Leadership team have been very supportive of the current strategy. Chris also acknowledged the support from their Investment managers as they transition towards a more environmentally and socially aware investment portfolio.
Midpoint during the week the participants viewed the film 'There Once was an Island' followed by a discussion facilitated by Anna Nicholls rsm. This documentary examines the effects of climate change on a low-lying Pacific island nation and the choice three people face - stay or go? The Pacific island region is particularly vulnerable to climate change so the stark choice to relocate or remain is not simply a film scenario.
Commencing with the MIA Vision Statement which calls on all members of the Mercy Family to 'witness to the sacredness of all creation', Anne Walsh demonstrated the wealth of current material available in the Mercyworld.org website and integrated Mercy eNews to address the MIA focus theme from MIRP of degradation of Earth. This included resources for each of the global events in September, such as the Season of Creation. and the location of the microsite established for Mercy Global Presence where the first theme in Segment 1: Global, beginning 29 September, is 'Cosmos/Cosmology'.
Mary Reynolds rsm first traced the history of the Mercy International Reflection Process (MIRP) with its symbols of butterfly, heart and holon. It was during MIRP that Mercy Global Presence was 'revealed' to us.
The writers of the MIRP Review document stated 'This Mercy Global Presence will find substance and shape through further communal and global contemplation. This will happen only with the ongoing reflective engagement of the participants in MIRP whose voices led to the shaping of this vision.' They concluded: 'This will mean opening new conversations, finding new language, searching for new expressions of spirituality, and developing new theologies and new rituals. It will also mean using the best and most creative in online communications.' This process, to which Sr Mary introduced the participants in the Mercy to Earth programme, commences on 29 September.
On Friday morning participants had the opportunity for personal reflection time around the elements of earth, air, fire and water. Each element was created by Anna Nicholls rsm in a different reflection space - Earth in the Sacred Garden, Fire in Catherine's Room, Air in the Library and Water in the chapel.
These reflection spaces included quotations from Laudato Si', artifacts related to the element (e.g. shells with the Water space) and leading thinkers on climate change from the current issue of Time magazine.
Shared reflection followed. The day and week were brought to a close with a ritual in the garden incorporating a special prayer at the newly installed plaque remembering the Sisters buried in the crypt at St Teresa's and in the Sacred Garden at Baggot Street.
A Mercy to Earth programme will be offered in 2020, from Monday, 14 - Friday, 18 September.
Messages to: Anna Nicholls rsm - Leader, Heritage & Spirituality