In response to the Caring for Our Common Home: An Ignatian Perspective document, our Jesuit school, Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview in Sydney, Australia began developing a strategic plan to engage the whole school community in caring for creation.
Drawing on the Australian Jesuit Ministries Laudato si’ planning process, the Riverview Caring for Our Common Home Strategic Action Plan embodies the elements of Ignatian pedagogy: context, experience, reflection, action and evaluation.
The process began last year with a review of the college’s current context and sustainability strategies and programs, involving members of the college executive, faculty, parents and friends group as well as our alumni (Old Ignatian Union) and the sustainability co-ordinator.
Ecological conversion is at the heart of the Riverview plan as through spirituality and education we to come to see, know and love creation as God intended and so bring about a change in heart and change in habit that is needed to reconcile with creation. In Terms 3 and Term 4 last year staff and student prayers focused on various environmental events and days such as the Season of Creation, International Day for Rural Women and World Wetlands Day. This will continue this year with ecological spirituality embedded in prayers, liturgies, examens and Masses for both staff and students.
Our first Professional Learning Day of the academic year on Thursday 27 January provided all our staff the opportunity to engage with the Caring for Our Common Home: An Ignatian Perspective document. The workshop was held online for 250 staff and the three goals of the workshop were:
- Building on Catholic identity
- Engage staff in the “Caring for Our Common Home: An Ignatian Perspective” document by looking at the framework provided in the document, why are we are adopting it and how we could implement this document at Riverview
- Develop individual and collective staff action
Staff were initially asked to think about the meaning of the word ‘care’ by using images on their phone of a person or place that was special to them and identify the emotions connected to the concept of care. Staff shared their responses via chat in Zoom and this activity drew attention to the importance of love and nurturing when we care for creation.
Staff considered the reasons why the document is significant in our context at Riverview where the First Nations Gaimariagal people lived, sourced food and educated their children in their rich culture. Kaleb Taylor, the First Nations Coordinator, spoke about “sweet Mother Earth” and his obligation to give back to country. Kaleb emphasised that we are all connected to country, and we have a responsibility to look after Mother Earth. He said when we come to Riverview we are not just coming to work we are coming to “be” and look after each other. Riverview has a responsibility to protect the sacred sites of the Gaimariagal people that are on this land and engages experts to ensure this occurs.
We also explored Catholic Social Teaching on stewardship of creation by looking at references from writings by Pope Benedict and Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’. Staff were asked to consider the impacts of technology and economic development on the environment and also the poorest in society.
The session also explored the link between the Universal Apostolic Preference of ‘Journeying with Youth’ and ‘Caring for Creation’, highlighting how student wellbeing can be affected by concerns about the environment. The University of Bath in the UK, researched 10,000 students between the ages of 16 and 25, across ten countries to gauge how they feel about climate change. The study found a correlation between negative emotions, such as worry, and beliefs that government responses to climate change have been inadequate. Providing opportunities for young people to have a positive impact on the environment also benefits well-being.
Staff were invited to share their thoughts on the importance of caring for creation and being connected to nature. Some comments included:
‘Our common home is wherever we are, leaving the smallest possible imprint and most connected when by the ocean.‘
‘I want a conscious way of living for and by all so that our children’s children can live in and enjoy what God has designed for us. I am most connected to nature when I am surrounded by it and having no distractions like devices with me.’
‘Common home is where we live and work. Most connected to nature when out walking along tracks near water and bushland. We care by reducing plastic and reducing rubbish, planting natives, and ensuring green spaces are maintained.‘
The next steps in our action plan include engaging all our students, families, and alumni in the framework so that we work toward a change of heart and change of habit to care for creation and find God in all things.
Find out more about Caring for Our Common Home on the Educate Magis website.
Sharon McLean, Sustainability Co-ordinator, Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview.