CARING FOR OUR COMMON HOME
By Lawrie Hallinan, Chair, Care for our Common Home Committee
When the news is full of unprecedented climate disasters, it is difficult to maintain a positive view on our ability to contribute to the future – even when you are the Province eco-champions.
That was the sentiment expressed at a meal shared by some members of the Society of Jesus in Australia (SOJA) Care for our Common Home Committee. The meal in Parramatta on 13 November preceded a full-day strategy meeting in North Sydney.
The Committee usually meets via videoconference every six weeks to hear about and support initiatives in Jesuit parishes, schools, spirituality and social and other ministries. The recent meeting in Sydney was the Committee’s first face-to-face meeting.
Thanks to the generosity of Australian Catholic University (ACU), the meeting was held at the Peter Cosgrove Centre in North Sydney on level 18, with sweeping views over Sydney Harbour. The full-day meeting reviewed the work of the Committee and its role in assisting SOJA ministries.
After an Acknowledgment of Country, the meeting prayed the “I am a tree of life” meditation from Michael Hansen SJ.
The discussion took the perspective of a systems approach. This approach notes that human organisations have similar traits to eco-systems found in nature. They are made up of:
- distinct parts which play different roles;
- some parts which have a more direct and significant impact on other parts;
- some parts which can work together as a sub-system;
- parts which can have a positive and/or negative impact on each other and on the whole;
- all parts that are interconnected;
- a whole system that will always work to maintain balance (either the pre-existing or a new state); and
- a whole that is more than the sum of its parts.
The Committee noted the intention of the Province Apostolic Plan was that all ministries embed Care for our Common Home as part of their way of proceeding/business as usual. For this to occur, ministries need to consciously and consistently make changes to their operations. The systems approach tells us that SOJA and its ministries will fail to do so and will revert to the current priorities and preferences. The introduction of annual reporting by each SOJA ministry on its Care for our Common Home activities is a system change that has the potential to ensure ministries make conscious and consistent change in line consistent with the Plan to lead to lasting change.
… we know that authentic faith not only gives strength to the human heart, but also transforms life, transfigures our goals and sheds light on our relationship to others and with creation as a whole. (Laudato Deum #61)
Care for our Common Home calls for a more attentive approach to creation, an approach that feels and reflects awe and connection with the Creator and all of creation. We see creation as having intrinsic value regardless of its utilitarian worth to us. Contemplation rather than consumption is the priority. We seek opportunities to invite others to experience God in creation as part of the activities of schools, social ministries, parishes and spirituality. We would evaluate the impact of our consumption and of our utility use. We would also take action – not only if we have surplus funds but by recognising it as an inbuilt cost.
The Committee appreciates the courageous words and actions of leaders such as Pope Francis, Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ and our Provincial, Fr Quyen Vu SJ. We are missioned by Fr Quyen to work in a way that respects subsidiarity and so also value–dispersed leadership and the organising principle of subsidiarity. Therefore, the Committee will maintain its current approach of assisting each ministry to determine when and how it can best Care for our Common Home. We work for a widespread conversion that affects: “heart, head and hands”.
The mere fact that personal, family and community habits are changing is contributing to greater concern about the unfulfilled responsibilities of the political sectors and indignation at the lack of interest shown by the powerful. Let us realise, then, that even though this does not immediately produce a notable effect from the quantitative standpoint, we are helping to bring about large processes of transformation rising from deep within society. (Laudato Deum #71).
Comprising representatives from the range of Jesuit ministries, the Committee is uniquely gifted to dream of new projects and new ways of working together. For example:
- Jesuit school students undertaking a summer immersion where they enjoy hospitality from Jesuit parishes and other Jesuit school students, provide practical assistance to Jesuit social ministries, and are enriched by Jesuit spiritual exercises.
- Climate-displaced people can be assisted by Jesuit Mission in their home communities, assisted by JRS in relocating, educated by Jesuit schools and welcomed by Jesuit parishes.
- Indigenous people have much to teach all Jesuit ministries about community and Care for our Common Home. In this post-Voice referendum environment, it is more important than ever that we extend our hands in friendship and commit to accompanying each other.
The Committee ended the day with an Examen developed by students at Saint Ignatius’ College, Athelstone. This helped us appreciate how God had challenged and consoled us throughout the day.
As SOJA prepares to develop a new Province Apostolic Plan that further expresses the Universal Apostolic Preferences, there is much hope in the possibilities for all of us to Care for our Common Home.