Starting at a grassroots level

A recent hands-on introduction to land care was a valuable outdoor lesson for students from Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview.


By Janark Gray, Communication Officer, Society of Jesus in Australia

The feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola is celebrated on 31st July. It’s a day when many Jesuit ministries and institutions around the globe reflect on the life of the founder of the Society of Jesus. However, a group of Year 11 students from Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview celebrated the feast day in a different way by taking on one of the Universal Apostolic Preferences: Caring for our Common Home.

Sue Martin, the Province Care for our Common Home officer, invited the boys to undertake some land care work at Peter Canisius House in Pymble, NSW. This involved largely weeding out the fishbone fern present in the gardens on a site where Jesuit and Ignatian Spirituality retreats are held during the year.

The day began with a Mass for the students before they got their green thumbs stuck into the plant life on site. “None of the boys had done any land care or bush care like this before,” said Sue. The Riverview boys learned a lot about the native plant life and what steps can be taken to maintain and care for their local environment. It’s the type of education that begins at a grass root level, where this knowledge is then spread among their peers throughout the next generation. Sue’s little grandson Marcus also came along to lend a helping hand and got involved in the day.

“Landcare is a way of really getting to know country, and understanding the impacts that need to be managed,” said Sue. The students also attended to the labyrinth at Peter Canisius House that needed some attention and care. Sue encouraged them to get to know their local reserves and bushland and notice what weeds were present. It was a new experience for the boys that will leave a lasting impression. If they are to have their own gardens some day, this new-found knowledge will serve them well, especially if they become interested in horticulture.

The day was rounded off with a contemplative walk through the Dalrymple-Hay Nature Reserve where some of the boys were surprised to find wallabies roaming around. It was a day filled with Australian flora and fauna. Sue said the boys worked really hard and “enjoyed seeing the fruits of their labour.” They really enjoyed seeing that their day had made a difference. Sue hopes that this becomes an annual activity not just for Jesuit schools but for other schools as well. “The boys have had an experience of this firsthand and we’re hoping it becomes a regular activity at Peter Canisius House.”

Sue Martin (front row, far right) and Marcus (back row, second from left) with the Riverview students. Photo courtesy of Sue Martin.

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