An ecological reflection on International Women's Day

"My life journey has had a river running through it which formed a passion to better care for country."

Each year, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on my place in the world.

Respecting that I live on Darug land where ancestors cared for our common home for thousands of years, what is my place? Well, I am a daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, friend, colleague, peer, chair, mentor, educator, landcarer, netballer, pilgrim and Catholic woman.

My life journey has had a river running through it which formed a passion to better care for country. I have an agricultural science degree majoring as an agronomist, but my place was quickly grounded within the environmental education profession, helping others to better care for country.

I believe that our post-COVID, post-Anthropocene world needs leadership to build the deep connections across and within all our places. I see this reflected so beautifully in Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti, finding our voice to build integral ecology with our common home. David Sobel, who is an American educator and academic responsible for developing the philosophy of place-based education, says, “you need to love your place before you can go out and care for it”. The Aunties from our Australian First Nations community often say, “if you don’t care for country, country will not care for you”. Finding God in all things has become my way of proceeding.

Connecting with Fr Pedro Walpole SJ and the work being done by the Society through Ecojesuit, the 2010 document Healing a Broken World transformed my professional life. I had a place to assist with the Society’s work to ‘green’ the heart of our world.

I take heart from our Australian Jesuit community. The Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) are alive. Our Reconciliation with Creation mission to develop environmental justice hubs in various places is growing, first in Melbourne, and now in Western Sydney. Our Being with God in Nature ministry to connect with the creator spirit in nature is growing, and provides a chance for givers and receivers of the Spiritual Exercises to breathe new life into our place, all to help build a post-COVID post-Anthopocene world.

My life motto is ‘strong woman’ and my inspiration is Ruth from the Old Testament. She is my strong woman who cares very deeply “across and within her place”, and is also a farmer! From the New Testament, I draw inspiration from Martha and Mary and their complex servant leadership, as I do the strength of our Mother Mary and her ability to ponder at the foot of the cross.

My life has been filled with strong women. Sr Anna Conway RSM, an Irish Mercy nun, blessed my parish journey. My parents formed my core and it is my mother, a deeply religious women with theology qualifications, who continues to be an inspiration. I was also educated by the Good Samaritan nuns who instilled deeply a sense of caring for the other.

The Society itself was initially formed with strong women who walked with Ignatius, in patronage, advocacy, and active collaborative work, as described by James Reites SJ in 2013 article for The Way, ‘Ignatius and Ministry with Women’.

If I am to fulfil my mission to ‘green the heart of our world’, I need to be all these strong women.

Sue Martin