Drumalis Retreat and Conference Centre, Larne, Co Antrim

Drumalis 1A report on this wonderful event from Sr Margaret Rose:

At a moving and inspiring celebration on Sunday 25th February 2018, Drumalis Retreat and Conference Centre was awarded an Eco-Congregation Ireland Award.

Presenting the plaque, crafted from disused church pews, Catherine Brennan SSL said that Drumalis was “a beacon of Light” showing prophetic leadership in addressing the ecological crisis of our time.  As the Catholic Representative on the committee of Eco-Congregation Ireland, she has been associated with the ecological activities at Drumalis for the past 20 years. She described how this ancient site, with its long history as a sacred place, had blazed a trail in offering programmes and practical activities to raise awareness of the need to wake up to the reality of our “planet in peril.”

Eco-Congregation Ireland itself is a project of the Irish Inter-Church Meeting which encourages churches to adopt an eco-friendly approach to all aspects of church life – worship, life style, property management and awareness of the issues of poverty, displacement and deprivation in the developing world.  Drumalis has been a place which has adopted this approach.  Hundreds of participants in the programmes at Drumalis have been challenged to celebrate the gift of creation and become ecologically responsible inhabitants of the earth which they share with many other species.  Practical activities to reduce consumerism, waste and pollution are promoted.  The challenge is to consider the question: what sort of a world are we leaving to future generations? These are the issues, along with a “spirituality that includes the earth” which are the focus of the conferences, retreats and activities at the Centre. The  award ceremony took place at the end of a weekend of the annual Spring Conference, this year focusing on “One Family, One Common Home.”

Present at the celebration were representatives of many other groups associated with the environmental activities of Drumalis: Friends of the Earth, Larne Lough, Women Religious of Ireland who are pioneers in this field, An Tairseach Wicklow, Jubilee Farm, Creation Care NI and the Sisters of the Cross and Passion.

Sr Nellie McLaughlin RSM gave a moving summary of the development of the Drumalis Environment Group through the past 20 years. Others present shared their own experience of eco events at Drumalis and how they had been awakened in their understanding of  the issues at stake. Joe Furphy from Eco-Congregation Ireland read a poem. He reflected on how an “ordinary” walk can be transformed into a wondrous awareness of the gift of God that is revealed to us all in creation, if only we stop and take time to be aware - and be present.

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Paul Reid, attended along with Council officers and public representatives.  He congratulated Drumalis for the contribution they had made within the local community as a place of peace, welcome and inclusion. The courage and vision shown by the Drumalis community was an inspiration to all.  He expressed a sympathetic connection with Drumalis as he tries to promote policies to preserve the beauty and wildness of places like the hedgerows and open spaces. The mayor concluded by expressing his own personal hope that together we might create a welcoming habitat for the return of the blue butterflies, an aspiration perhaps in tune with the dream which Drumalis has consistently tried to realise for the future of the planet – our common home.

Sr Margaret Rose and Sr Anna expressed their thanks for the award. It was an encouragement to them to continue the vital work for the future of the planet, and indeed a great honour to be the first Catholic institution in the North to be recognised for this work. The event closed with an Irish blessing reflecting the final words of Sr Nellie’s address.

“I’m delighted that Eco-Congregation Ireland has decided to bestow this award on the Drumalis community, it is so well deserved. I invite us to consciously join with the entire community of creation – the  stars, galaxies, Sun, Moon, fish, insects, birds, plants, animals … the flowers and butterflies as we extend heartfelt congratulations to Drumalis and every blessing into the future.”

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Sharon Morrow, Sr Anna Hainey, Councillor Paul Reid (Mayor of Mid and East Antrim), Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna, Sr Margaret Rose Mc Sparran

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Sr Catherine Brennan, Sr Margaret Rose McSparran, Joe Furphy, Councillor Paul Reid (Mayor of Mid & East Antrim), Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna, Catherine Hunter (Education Officer, Mid & East Antrim Borough Council) & Sr Anna Hainey

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Sr Anna Hainey CP, Councillor Paul Reid (Mayor of Mid and East Antrim), Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna and Sr Margaret Rose McSparran CP