Parish Initiative provides Opportunity for MIRP Stage 4 Action
Editor: At our invitation, Kathleen Friel rsm, a member of the Westport Cluster, has provided a report on one of their actions from Stage 4: We will continue to support the local Eco Congregation Committee in our parish. They have initiated and continue to initiate many local actions that we are supporting and organizing with them. We are sharing, and will continue to share, with this committee and others some of the resources we receive from MIA.
During MIRP the cluster recognised the wonderful opportunity a parish initiative was presenting to them as they moved forward with our Mercy process. Sr Kathleen became a member of the parish Eco Congregation committee with the full support of the cluster. Sr Kathleen writes: 'Here was an opportunity to join up with the parish, and as I saw it at the time - the work of the Spirit.' The cluster included in their Action Plan their decision to support this local initiative.
We are a small cluster. During the MIRP some of us saw a notice on our parish newsletter about an upcoming meeting in the parish in relation to the formation of an Eco-Congregation. There was an open invitation to people to attend. Two young people from the parish, who were already working on different environmental projects in the County, had attended a meeting, where the national Eco Congregation Co-Ordinator spoke on the topic of Eco Congregations and their purpose. At this time Laudato Si was just published, and forming Eco congregations was presented as one possible response to “Care of our Common Home”. They became very enthusiastic and in due course visited the local clergy in the parish (Catholic and Protestant churches) and proposed that they initiate an Eco Congregation in the parish. Consequently the meeting referred to above was called. Two of us from our cluster attended this meeting. Following a very enthusiastic presentation from the two young women, I decided that this was the way forward for me to further our Commitment to Action (Stage 4 of MIRP) I carried news back to the cluster of the evolving parish initiative. Here was an opportunity to join up with the parish, and as I saw it at the time - the work of the Spirit. I became a member of the committee with the full support of the cluster.
Many events and initiatives have been happening since through the huge commitment and enthusiasm of this Eco Congregation Committee e.g.
- We decided to request a space each week in our parish newsletters (both churches) to raise awareness about the reality of climate change and the destruction of our common home. This has happened and is ongoing.
- On a regular basis prayers for Creation are included in the Prayers of the faithful at Mass and all services in the parish.
- We invited Sean McDonagh (Columban priest) to our parish on two different occasions. Up to 70 people attended the 1st event in a hotel venue. It was a great success, and consequently many people wished to have him come again. During the Season of Creation in 2016, our parish clergy at our request, agreed to invite him to speak at all the weekend parish liturgies. The total congregation numbers between all the masses was 1500. Interest was growing and people were expressing interest in and concern for our Common Home.
- Each week during the Season of Creation in 2016, we put a quotation from Laudato Si' in our parish newsletter.
- Workshops were organised before Christmas '16 on how to use recycled materials for Christmas decorations and Christmas Cards. Grants were applied for to Mayo County Council to cover expenses and materials etc.
- Members from the committee visited the diocese of Kilala to participate in a project they had undertaken there called "Chain for Change" With the full support and encouragement from our local clergy we organised this in our churches, with groups, and in our local Mercy Secondary School. Each person who participated was invited to write a statement of what they were going to do to protect our Common home. The statements written on small pieces of white cardboard, were then stapled together to create a chain. This very large chain was used in our churches as Christmas decorations. It attracted a lot of attention and questions from people. We plan to do it again on an even larger scale this coming Christmas.
- An invitation to our committee from the local catechist in our Secondary School to lead an Eco-Ramble for May Day 2015 and 2016 was received. I was one of the committee invited to lead this.
- We had sheep come with their shepherd to graze grassland in an estate in the area. We called it the “Good Shepherd project” This happened over a weekend and it was carefully supervised on a Rota basis by all members of the committee. The idea was to provide an experience of an alternative to using a mowing machine, thus cutting down on carbon emissions. It surely raised a lot of awareness and Mayo County Council supported this effort by grant- aid and encouragement for the initiative.
- One of the young women who is a founding member of the Eco Congregation in Westport parish, was recently employed by Mayo County Council as “Climate Action Officer” – a new position that all County Councils will be gradually creating. This office in Mayo has now become the “Regional Climate Change Office” This is great news and Westport Eco Congregation are very proud that one of the members will have such a key role to play in County Mayo and beyond during this very challenging time of Climate Change.
Recently a “Zero Waste Event” was organised in the town hall. Over 180 people participated. The manager of the local Supervalu store was in attendance and now he is taking up the challenge to reduce packaging and reward customers who supply their own cup when buying take away coffee/tea. He is actively spreading the good news on the store’s facebook page. Other Coffee shops are taking up the challenge now. (See attachment with the local coverage of this event)
- Professor John Sweeney was invited to Westport recently to speak on Climate Change. This was organised by Westport Civic Trust. He gave a wonderful presentation on the scientific factual reality of Climate Change. Coincidentally this presentation was on the night after Ophelia! (See attached the local coverage of this event)
- The Eco Congregation Committee meet once a month. The parish clergy are always represented. Members of both churches as well as people who do not attend either church form the committee.
- I share many excellent resources that MIA offers us through the newsletter etc. Recently one of the Prayer Services sent to us for the Season of Creations was shared at a committee meeting and used later at a special service in the Protestant church. I also shared other resources e.g. the presentations/talks offered to us by the many and varied experts in the fields of Theology and Science during MIRP. Some factual information we receive from MIA in relation to justice Issues, refugee crises/trafficking etc I share in the weekly parish newsletter and bring to the attention of the Eco Congregation Committee.
- On the last weekend of the Season of Creation recently, the committee was invited to prepare a 5 minute homily for all the Masses. Two members shared this on behalf of the committee. There was very positive feedback. Consequently the rector of the protestant church invited a member from the committee to be the guest-speaker at the Harvest Festival in one of his churches. This was received very well.
- There are many groups working together on different Environmental projects e.g. Tidy towns, Community Allotments, Sustainability, etc. etc. There is now a growing networking and support happening between all of the groups. Recently there was a great celebration when the Tidy Towns Committee was presented with the National Award for the “best large town”. The Eco Congregation Committee work closely with all of these groups.
Messages to: Westport Parish Eco Congregation Committee c/- Kathleen Friel rsm
We welcome reports from other groups and individual reflections on what you have done to enact your actions since MIRP formally finished. Messages to: Anne Walsh - MIRP Communications Director