Ecology Spirituality Weekend on Climate Change

Written on: June 27, 2017

Touch the earth with gentleness; touch the earth with love.Touch her with a future by the way you live today.  (Kathy Sherman, CSJ)

These lyrics capture the hope and prayer of the Ecology Spirituality group who met the weekend of June 16th at St. Gabriel’s Retreat Center near Clarks Summit. Eighteen members gathered to appreciate together the incredible beauty and diversity of nature and to learn more about the challenge of climate change, our influence on it and what we can do to slow it down.  Sisters and Associates who have been coming annually for years were delighted to welcome newcomers.  Friday evening, after praying together and introducing themselves, the group listened to Sister Sheila Stone tell a bit of history of this group, an almost 20-year history!

Several resources were the focus of the weekend. The message of Pope Francis for World Day of Prayer for the Care for Creation (published last fall) encouraged us to include in the works of mercy care for our common home.  Having previously read Pope Francis’ message, members of the group reflected on and then discussed in small groups how the material challenges us or attracts us, what we want to leave for those who come after us, and how we will practice care for our common home as a work of mercy.

In three half-hour sessions, we viewed a film entitled “Before the Flood”, a 2016 documentary film tracing the journeys and interviews of Leonardo DiCaprio, United Nations Messenger for Peace for Climate, as he seeks understanding of the impact of climate change on the planet, and discovers how we have been complicit in the devastation caused by climate change.   We learned more about:

  • sea rise,
  • arctic ice melt,
  • the disappearance of coral reefs,
  • the flooding of island nations like Palau and Kiribati,
  • the clear evidence of sea rise in Miami, and
  • the connections between fossil fuel industries and campaign finance.

We met in small groups to talk about what we learned and the impact it had on our thinking and on our desire to act. We agreed that we want to share this film with a broader audience and to promote it. Throughout the documentary, there was repeated reference to the Paris Climate Agreement – which was last year such a hopeful symbol of our commitment to change for the sake of our earth. Now, we realize, we will need to support all those cities, states, corporations, and organizations who want honor the agreement’s contents even though the U.S. is no longer a signer.

A tradition of the Ecology Spirituality weekend has been a creative activity on Saturday evening. This weekend, Lucia Iacono helped us integrate poetry, music, excerpts from Pope Francis’ writings on care of the earth, and yoga so that our minds and hearts and bodies were all involved in Earth-keeping, whether in yoga pose, poetic offering, or sing-along moments. Photos taken by Peggy Devaney give some idea of the fun we had that evening.

Some of the most meaningful moments in the weekend happen in the time spent in silent contemplation of nature. The grounds of St. Gabriel’s Retreat Center offer plenty of opportunities for a kind of gratitude “rush” and after about 90 minutes of free time for a nature walk or nature rest, we shared with one another the various ways that we heard the voice of earth, our home and her many creatures.

Before we left St. Gabriel’s after lunch on Sunday, we spent considerable time and energy deciding what individual and group commitments might flow from what we experienced together. Here are some of the commitments we made as a group:

  1. Widen the circle of awareness, e.g. by sharing the film with other groups
  2. Eat less meat, especially beef
  3. Reduce consumption e.g. shorter showers; fewer trips to shop; stop laminating memorial cards
  4. Use card from Catholic Health Association to remind us daily to pray about all we have learned and to ask for courage and perseverance
  5. Actively advocate (through letters, e-mail, phone, lobby groups) for an issue related to climate change

The Ecology Spirituality group will meet again June 22-24, 2018. Anyone is welcome to join. Contact Sister Sheila Stone, or any member of the group, for further information and to be put on the e-mail list.


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