Sisters of Mercy Environment Week in Árd Bhride Community, Co Mayo

Immaculata Brady, Maura Gallagher and Margaret Tiernan provided ECI with a report of their event.  Learn more about the Árd Bhride Community, Co Mayo here.

“We believe in the goodness of creation

And we celebrate the harmony of life

For the song of the earth was written by our God

And joined as one we sing.”

This is the chorus of ‘Song of the Earth’ the verses of which were adapted from Chief Seattle (1854) and which we sing here in Árd Bhride.   This with its four verses emphasises our need to be aware of ‘the harmony of Life’ and why we have organised this ‘Environment Week’.

Our poster cries out: “Re-mind, Re-pair, Re-use, Re-cycle, Re-fuse and Share” and is once again an incentive to us to do all we can to work towards that ‘harmony’ before it is too late.

Ard BhrideOur first evening consisted of a prayer to ask God to be with us in our deliberations over the week.  We praised God for our beautiful world and then reflected on the state of our planet today and on what we might do as a community to alleviate some of the problems that are so pertinent at present. (As we write this ‘report’, we are house-bound and on Red Alertas ‘Emma’ makes her way towards us 1 . 3 . 18!!.

In our Lenten Prayer, Reading and Reflecting on the statistics given us regarding our world today can be overwhelming and daunting:  8.355 million in dire poverty, 1.2 billion using more water than we can afford and 7.3 billion tonnes of plastic, 79%of which ends up in landfill and only 9% is recycled.  UCG has recently published its research on the hazards of microplastic to the fish in our oceans.  These statistics could go on and on.  But we must not become downcast in face of all the destruction taking place locally and globally.  Therefore as we begin this second week of Lent we dedicated some time to prayer, ritual and reflection because our suffering world calls us to speak and to act ‘with integrity and clear intention’.

On day two of our environment week Fr SintayhuGelaw celebrated Mass with us and afterwards shared with us his experience of ‘life in Global South’.  For him this is Medita in Northern Ethiopia.  For the past three and a half years he has been studying in Ireland, learning about International Government/Development.  At present he studies in Kimmage.  Next September he will return to his mission in Medita and as a result of his studies and experience in Ireland he is very aware of the corrupt and complicated politics in his country.  He is very enthusiastic to get involved in the fact that the women there are exploited and completely dependent on their husbands for money despite the fact that these women work so hard each day.  Irrespective of the religion they practice, he wants to engage in the work of building self-confidence in these women.   We wish this young priest every success in this great missionary work.

On day three we had another topic “Women Sower of Seeds locally and globally”.   Amongst those women we have our own Catherine and the hymn “Mercy Seed” beautifully captures her story. This was our opening hymn, followed by quotations from Laudato Si to which we responded “All creation is a song of praise to God”.   As Catherine loved all creation and sowed her seed we too were given seeds to sow in our own little ‘Patch’   The concluding prayer and blessing captured very well the desire of our hearts to work towards honouring all that God has made with reverence.

Our prayers and intercessions were all on the environment and reminding us what we can do in our own small ways.    The following is just one of them - “May we learn to live within our means, by reducing our waste and clutter and by continuing to Re-mind, Re-pair, Re-use, Re-cycle, Re-fuse and Share”.   And our response - “May we learn to live in harmony with all creation”.

To end our environment week we had John Cleary who recently completed an MA on Climate Change.   Having been a teacher was a bonus as he presented the topic: “Tracing the roots of Climate Change”.  This is a complex subject with multiple causes, we agreed, but through Time Charts, Bar Charts and Pie Charts John took us through the centuries in a very skillful and informative way.   Here again the statistics were frightening especially when we compare the difference that has come about since 1800 onwards.  10,000 years ago 99% of our planet was populated by wild animals, now it is 1%.  As trees were felled, fossil fuels and whale oil used, CO2 emissions have been rising since.  We ask what impact has all this on our climate? His pie chart showing that we have used 2/3 of our Carbon Budget already poses many questions, but our big questions were:  Where is the hope in all of this?  What is the impact of what I am doing right now on Climate Change?  In the discussion that followed a great awareness has been created amongst us.   The suggestions and ideas that were offered were practical and thought provoking.  We will continue to lay siege on plastic and we are so pleased that that has already begun – as we have abandoned the plastic containers for milk and now deal with a company that supplies the milk in card-board cartons.  Each day will provide further action, so the power of one community can cause the “Seed to Grow.”

This concluding prayer and blessing used in one of our liturgies this week summarises very well the promises we make and the desire of our hearts to live in harmony with all creation:

“Bless us in the name of the Father, and Son and the Holy Spirit.  As we go forth with joy and hope to care for God’s creation, we walk gently on earth, in right relationships, nurtured by love, taking only what we need, giving back to the earth with gratitude, sowing seeds of justice, love and beauty, honouring all with reverence, reconciling and healing, mindful of those who will come after us, and of the poor today, recognising our proper place as part of, not apart from your creation.  Amen.”

The concluding prayer and blessing used in one of our liturgies during our environment week summarises very well the promises we make and the desire of our hearts to live in harmony with all creation:

“As we go forth with joy and hope to care for God’s creation, we walk gently on earth, in right relationships, nurtured by love, taking only what we need, giving back to the earth with gratitude, sowing seeds of justice, love and beauty, honouring all with reverence, reconciling and healing, mindful of those who will come after us.   Amen.”

As a practical way of putting our words into action we are going to plant the oak tree that John Cleary gifted us with when he talked to us about “tracing the root of climate change”.

And it is very significant that we are planting this on the eve of Palm Sunday because in the New Testament trees permeate holy Week and are central to our Liturgy.