The Environment Group of the Parishes of Our Lady of the Way at North Sydney is gearing up in 2012 to bring environmental concerns to the forefront, by helping integrate ecological awareness into the liturgy, catechism and other parish ministries.
Tony Borger, the group’s contact person, said, ‘We’re trying to roll out an education program in the Parish to raise the awareness of people, to put the idea of environment and eco-theology in the parish.’
This development is the outcome of years of extensive reading, reflection sessions, and their engagement with groups such as Catholic Earth Care and Earthsong in Victoria.
It was with Earthsong in Victoria, specifically through Brigidine Sister Anne Boyd’s talk on a contemporary understanding of the creation story on August 2011, which helped the group refine the course of action they wished to take. Margaret Borger said, ‘Earthsong’s just embraced us. They really want to help us in every aspect. They showed us a way forward.’
Peter Fitzmaurice added, ‘We now believe that [our] approach is to act as a catalyst for various groups within the parish. There’s been some talk of the catechists as being very keen to get some educational materials and we can follow through in that area.’
As a first step in fulfilling the role of educators, the group recently launched an environment blog and poll section on their website, which has elicited discussion from parishioners. Jeanette Fitzmaurice, who managed the group’s website said, ‘It’s becoming a resource centre, and we’re thinking beyond the parish.’
The Environment Group began in 2008 as a spin off from the Pastoral Team at Our Lady Star of the Sea Kirribilli, one of the three churches which belong to the North Sydney Parish.
‘We thought then that the environment was a big issue of social justice. We started looking at light bulbs, water usage, recycling, encouraging people to restrict their power usage and writing articles in the [Parish] bulletin’, said Tony Borger.
Those early days involved more practical activities, such as the conduct of an energy audit for the parish, local participation in Clean Up Australia and writing articles for the weekly parish bulletin that offered brief summaries of books, movies and other literature on ecology.
Members of the group hope that as people get more aware, their experience will mirror their own transformation of being led into creation theology, a deeper exploration of a spirituality in establishing a relationship with creation, and the will to change one’s lifestyle for the care of the environment. Andrew Fraser said, ‘“Conversion of the heart” sums it up pretty well. You’ve got to get past the recycling and all that and get to motivate people to really want to do something.’
These elements from the group’s narrative of the past four years offer glimpses of the themes and recommendations from the Society of Jesus’ 2011 special report on ecology, ‘Healing a Broken World’.
Something essentially Ignatian also shows through. As Michael Gill expressed, ‘I feel myself here as in a journey with these companions. My faith education has been better attended to in this company than any other thing that I’ve done.’
‘As Catholics it’s also recognizing that every race and culture in all times has something to contribute to the creation story. There is an equality of validity in their spiritual experience. And that’s what we’re being challenged to.’
Pictured: Some members of the Environment Group (seated left to right): Vicky Antaw, Jeanette Fitzmaurice, Margaret Borger and Andrew Fraser, (standing, left to right) Tony Borger, Peter Fitzmaurice and Michael Gill.
For more information and useful resources, visit the Environment Group’s website and follow the link to their blog: http://www.northsydneycatholics.com/ministries/ministries/environment-group
By Giselle Lapitan