In this Ignatian year where we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the conversion of St Ignatius of Loyola, the Australian Jesuit Province is hosting the International Ignatian Ecospiritual Conference (IIEC2022). The conference will be online from 25-30 April. It will be opened by the Fr Arturo Sosi SJ, Father General of the Society of Jesus.
The conference is an opportunity to explore our sacred interconnectedness with all creation through mindful encounters with nature, reflection, authentic listening and prayer. There will be many keynote speakers. Dr Peter Saunders, one of the conference organisers, spoke to Australian Jesuit News about the conference.
Q: How does this conference relate to Ignatius conversion?
A: The conversion of St Ignatius of Loyola, which began during his recuperation at Loyola in 1521 was deepened later during his time at Manresa in 1522. He came to know Jesus intimately during this time and committed himself to serving Christ in the world. It was during this time that Ignatius began to write down the Spiritual Exercises. Towards the end of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius invites the one making them to experience the world in a new way, ‘to look how God dwells in creatures; in the elements, giving them being; in the plants, giving them life; in the animals giving them feeling; in people giving them understanding.’ We want to invite participants at the conference into this space of ‘Finding God in All Things.’
Q: What is the purpose of the conference?
A: The aim of the conference is to invite participants into a greater experience of God’s presence in all Creation that leads to ecological conversion and a deeper desire to commit to caring for our common home. We have created a short introductory video for all those interested in the conference: Welcome to IIEC 2022
Q: There seems to be a strong connection to Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si in the conference?
A: In 2015 Pope Francis published his landmark encyclical Laudato Si: On Care of Our Common Home. For Pope Francis, ‘The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dew drop, in a poor person’s face’ (LS, n233). Pope Francis is encouraging us to undertake an ecological conversion, whereby we come to appreciate that ‘Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of her creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.’ (LS, n.92) This is what we are hoping for all participants at the conference.
Q: How will the conference work?
A: As well as listening to exceptional speakers, we will invite participants from all over the world to spend some time each day in nature, becoming more aware of what they experience. Then in small group hubs they will have the opportunity to share their experience each day. We have created another short video to explain how the conference will work: IIEC2022 – What is it? At the end of the conference we will ask participants to consider how they will do more to care for our Mother Earth and all her creatures.
Q: How can people interested in the conference find out more about the International Ignatian Ecospiritual Conference?
A: They can go to our IIEC 2022 website. Here they will find a lot more information about the conference, the speakers and the program. As well they can register for the conference at the website.