By Sr Louise McKeogh FMA, Catholic Outlook, December 2016
Two gatherings at Australian Catholic University’s campuses at Strathfield on 10 November 2016 and North Sydney on 11 November 2016 were an opportunity to listen to and dialogue with Columban priest and eco-theologian Fr Sean McDonagh SSC.
He spoke of caring for creation and bringing Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home) to life within the context of parish life. In the spirit of Laudato Si’ both gatherings were not only opportunities to draw from the experience of Fr Sean but also opportunities for dialogue and learning.
Various parish programs and activities were presented from across Sydney at the North Sydney gathering. Fr Sean spoke of his experience in the Philippines in the Mindanao area with indigenous people and the effect of deforestation and mining on their communities, culture, livelihood and environments.
Fr Sean also spoke of his vision for the Church as he experiences the correlation and integration between creation and the sacraments. He envisions the need for Eucharistic prayers on the care of creation.
He acknowledges the signs of the times in the world that we are living in; in terms of creation it is no longer ‘business as usual’. “We in the developed world are using more of the earth’s resources than is sustainable for our daily living to continue,” Fr Sean said.
What was clear was the diversity of creative approaches being taken by parishes in care for their common home and facing the challenges of a new paradigm in terms of caring for creation.
Sally Coppini from St Madeleine’s Parish at Kenthurst reflected on the diversity of responders to Laudato Si’ from the wider community. She especially appreciated the input from professionals at the Royal Botanic Gardens and their support for the leadership of Pope Francis in this area.
In responding to Fr Sean, the Director of Catholic Earthcare Australia, Jacqui Remond, presented a powerful model of implementing Laudato Si’.
Jacqui facilitated a series of weekly Lenten discussion groups on Laudato Si’ in her local parish Manly-Pittwater. The parishioners appreciated the importance and necessity of taking up Pope Francis’ call to bring Laudato Si’ to life.
This has resulted in an integrated parish approach with a focus on liturgical celebrations such as seasons of creation, World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and the feast of St Francis. This is combined with practical actions within the life of the parish and community.
In conclusion, Anne Lanyon from the Columban Centre for Peace, Ecology and Justice said Pope Francis reminds us of the need for an integral ecology in Christian life in his message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in September.
In the Year of Mercy just concluded, Pope Francis proposed adding the care and protection of creation to the traditional list of corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
As a spiritual work of mercy, the Holy Father said, “care for creation requires a grateful contemplation of God’s world. While as a corporal work it calls for simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness.”
Fr Sean McDonagh’s visit was organised by the St Columban’s Mission Society in partnership with Australian Catholic University, Catholic Earthcare Australia, Justice and Peace Office, Archdiocese of Sydney, Earthkin, Sisters of Mercy Parramatta.
Sr Louise McKeogh FMA is Social Justice Director in the Diocese of Parramatta. To send Sr Louise an email click here.