May we take time during this Laudato Si’ Week to focus on its theme – Hope for the Earth. Hope for Humanity.

Apart from thinking about mothers on this Mother’s Day, I find myself turning my thoughts to mother earth as we begin Laudato Si’ Week, 16-24 May, in Australia. It is celebrated globally from May 21-28. Laudato Si’ Week, is a celebration of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ and a call to action for Catholics around the world.

During the coming week, you and your community are encouraged to join in reflecting and acting to bring Laudato Si’ to life. This year’s theme is Hope for the Earth. Hope for Humanity.

The Justice, Ecology and Peace Office of the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference has produced resources for you to complete a novena of prayer, reflection and action. (Social Justice Resources)

As well as this invitation to take part in a novena, I also point you to our diocesan Sustainability Plan, https://www.mn.catholic.org.au/about/sustainability-plan/ which was launched in 2022. It recognises our ability to positively influence sustainability in the Maitland-Newcastle region. This Sustainability Plan is underpinned by Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ encyclical, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and our Diocesan Strategic Plan 2022-2025.

In the message on page 5 of the Plan, the then Diocesan Administrator, Fr Greg Barker, wrote:

When Pope Francis wrote his encyclical ‘Laudato Si’’ in 2015, it was in response to what he saw as a worldwide crisis. A crisis of ecological magnitude. He saw the beauty of creation as a reflection of God’s love reflected in the heart and soul of the human person – its carers. He saw a gift often abused, our mother earth, a sister in creation too often neglected.

We are called to be stewards of this precious gift entrusted to us, so as to hand this on for generations to come. We are becoming more mindful that there is an ecological balance in this fragile eco-system which we have the privilege to call home. The diocese is committing to taking action for a sustainable future, to care for each other and for all of creation.

The Diocese defines sustainability as having a balanced relationship with the Earth, being equitable in demand for resources to ensure they are uncompromised for future generations, and maximising the environmental, social and financial benefits of all we do to create a better future. (p 8)

The Sustainability Plan is intended to assist diocesan personnel, including clergy, staff and volunteers, in bringing about God’s will for humans living in harmony with creation, scripture, and Church teachings, particularly the Laudato Si’ Action Plan. The Plan provides a roadmap towards sustainability. This Action Platform is designed to empower the universal Church and all people of goodwill to respond to Laudato Si’ by implementing its seven goals to take action over a seven-year timeframe. The Action Platform is a journey towards full sustainability in the holistic spirit of integral ecology.

Integral ecology is the key concept covered in Chapter 4 of Laudato Si’. It flows from our understanding that everything is closely connected and related. All our ecological networks impact on each other at all levels – the micro and macro. We are part of nature and nature is part of us. This has been understood for tens of thousands of years by the aboriginal people of Australia. These interrelationships enable Pope Francis to see that “we are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.” As a result, “Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” In such an “economic ecology”, the protection of the environment is then seen as “an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.” This is often referred to as the “Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor.”

I wonder how many of you have read the encyclical Laudato Si’ or are aware of our own diocesan Sustainability Plan or the seven goals of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. I am concerned that only a few of our parishes have made the care of our common home a priority.

Exploring the ancient teachings of our faith in the light of today’s ecological crisis, Laudato Si’ teaches us that “everything is connected.” (LS 91) As our relationship with our divine Creator has been neglected, human relationships have faltered, and our world has grown hotter, less stable, and more lifeless. As a result, we all suffer, and the poorest and most vulnerable suffer above all. We face a “complex crisis that is both social and environmental.” (LS 139)

There is hope. Pope Francis calls us to develop a “loving awareness” of this home we share, and to act on the values we hold dear. (LS 220)

Standing on the firm ground of “three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour, and with the Earth itself,” we commit to setting out “on the long path of renewal.” (LS 66, 202) We embrace our rightful place in the “order and dynamism” that our Creator ordained, and we urgently embark on new ways of living with “creativity and enthusiasm” (LS 221, 220).

We are being invited to cooperate as God’s instruments for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents. (LS 14).

We are being asked to consider:

  1. Our response to the cry of the earth
  2. Our response to the cry of the poor
  3. Ecological economics
  4. Adoption of sustainable lifestyles
  5. Ecological education
  6. Ecological spirituality
  7. Community resilience and empowerment

Within the diocesan Sustainability Plan, eight operational areas form the plan’s framework, each with their own priority actions:

  1. Leadership, governance and compliance
  2. Energy and greenhouse gas emissions and reduction
  3. Water
  4. Waste and recycling
  5. Biodiversity
  6. Sustainable design
  7. Transport
  8. Engagement and communications

I note that in each of the readings for the weekend, the Holy Spirit was called upon to empower those being sent and sanctified. In the Gospel, (John 15:15-21) we hear these words:

Jesus said to his disciples:
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.

This commandment to love and to be guided by the Spirit of Truth, means for us the whole of creation. May we take time during this Laudato Si’ Week to focus on its theme – Hope for the Earth. Hope for Humanity.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.