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For our Congregation, this is Eco-Justice

“The divine communicates to us primarily through the language of the natural world. Not to hear the natural world is not to hear the divine.” – Thomas Berry, The Sacred Universe

“If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart!” – Psalm 95:8

There’s a story told of the late Sister Marceline Mattingly, SP. While on a visit with a good friend, she spontaneously hugged a tree. She had a connection, not a competition with or a separateness from nature, but an open heart. Sister Marceline heard the natural world speaking, a vehicle of the divine. “We do not stand separate from the planet we share with other life; we are intimately related to it and so are also responsible for its care.” (Laudato Si’)

We often have embedded in our behavior, our language, our belief systems a disconnection from nature. There is a divide between care with Earth, with nature, and our existence as humans. We consciously or unconsciously live an either/or at times and not a both/and. Therefore we can and do disassociate from the natural world. We use/manipulate it, over-consume it. Often we don’t care for it. We need to partner with it for the betterment of all of God’s creation.

Awareness of our actions

As a species, we humans are called to ever-greater quality of living. Living in awareness and actions of our connection with the natural world. This greater quality of living is an invitation of justice, of right relationship, with Earth. Pope Francis in his encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care of our Common Home, expresses the moral and ethical realities of our injustices to Earth and human thriving.

Expressed in the Pope’s Laudato Deum, God is calling us to conversion and transformation attitudinally and behaviorally. This change of heart and action is both individual and collective, personal and with/for others.

Eco-justice addresses environmental injustices. These occur when hazardous wastes, resource extractions, fossil fuel emissions and land uses harm poor or marginalized communities that do not benefit and have no resources to fend off. Earth is our home to which we are to do no harm. And the harm we do often is disproportionate to the thriving and living of all equitably.

Grasping a call to care for our home requires us to act personally and collectively to consume and utilize as little as possible of Earth’s resources. This challenge calls us to conscious decision-making. It calls us re-prioritizing our lifestyles to ensure health of the natural world. And it calls us to participate in bringing about a more just world for all.

When I choose to use less gasoline by carpooling and combining trips instead of needing something and immediately driving to get it, I save 20 pounds of Greenhouse Gas emissions per gallon of gasoline I don’t use. When we do this, we spend less money. We bring less harm to the atmosphere. In doing, we harm the health of others less and don’t contaminate as much food, particularly for those whose food sources are limited.

We are Committed

Our Providence Community is committed to love, mercy and justice. Love of all God’s creation. Belief in the mercy of Providence who invites us beyond our choices that harm and into healing. Justice-making in being in right relationship with all creation, human and Earth.

The Providence Community joins with the worldwide Catholic Community to respond to the seven Goals of the Laudato Si’ platform. These goals involve responses to the cry of Earth, to the cry of the poor, to build ecological economies, to adopt simple lifestyles, to promote integral education, to interiorize ecological spirituality and to engage in community action and advocacy.

These Goals incorporate the intersecting of systemic issues of injustice that disproportionately affect our brothers and sisters when we shun intimate relationship with and responsible care of our planet. For example, this disproportionality affects equity of jobs, race equity, health status, housing, food disparities, women and children.

Our work of transformation and conversion is challenging but so necessary!

We and you can make a difference, for the sake of God’s creation in building a more just and equitable world and ending destruction to Earth and humans. May we hear God’s voice and not harden our hearts!

Learn more about our Eco-Justice ministries here.

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Sister Barbara Sheehan

Sister Barbara Sheehan

Sister Barbara Sheehan, SP, a Sister of Providence since 1960, lives in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods after several years in Chicago, where she ministered as Executive Director/ACPE Supervisor of the Urban Clinical Pastoral Education Consortium, Inc. and as a spiritual director. She has extensive training not only in clinical pastoral supervision but also in care with those sexually abused, those challenged with mental illness and those suffering trauma. She has offered many workshops at regional, national and international conferences, is the author of Partner in Covenant: The Art of Spiritual Companionship and of numerous articles including one of her latest, Formation For Professional Practice: Addressing Social Hurts" in Reflective Practice: Formation and Supervision in Ministry, Vol. 34 2014.

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  1. Avatar Lorrie Heber on December 5, 2023 at 10:23 am

    Amen, Sister! We live in interdependence with all of Earth’s elements whether we choose to see it or not. What we do, consciously or unconsciously, affects everything else. And while this modern life functionally prevents us from interacting with Earth “perfectly,” we can, and must, do all within our power. Well done, S. Barbara. Let us all be BOLD!

  2. Avatar Paula Modaff, SP on December 5, 2023 at 5:53 pm

    Thanks, Barbara, for these timely, necessary reflections. What better opportunity to renew our commitments during this brief Advent Season.

  3. Avatar Linda Doyle PA on December 6, 2023 at 8:04 pm

    Sr Barbara , I hugged a tree today because of you and smiled and said thankyou , to Mother Earth 🌎

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