Earth Committee moves toward ecological conversion

Care of the Earth is nothing new to the Sisters of Providence. It is part of the Constitutions and Rules of the congregation – number 28, to be precise: “…Recognizing that we humans are a part of the whole created universe, we accept the challenge to promote an integral ecology. (Pope Francis) As we foster the human, social and environmental connectedness of God’s creation, we become more authentic signs of God’s loving Providence.”

During this year of significant international milestones in caring for creation – the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si,” the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, and the 50th anniversary of Earth Day – it has simultaneously been a time of significant suffering due to health, justice, economic and environmental inequities.

In response to the increased and changing needs of our times, the Sisters of Providence have refocused their Earth ministry. A new Earth Committee will build on the work of the prior Reclaiming Earth Committee to support an updated mission statement: to foster action for the healing of our common home by deepening our understanding of Constitution #28 and facilitating the response to Laudato Si and integral ecology by the Sisters of Providence, Associates, Companions and friends.

The committee is made up of sisters with deep roots in Earth advocacy: Sisters Annette Seubert, Charlene Hudon, Margaret Botch, Marilyn Charette, Mary Kaye Nealen, Sue Orlowski, and Karen Hawkins. As a committee, they will be identifying specific steps for personal and provincial movement toward “Laudato Si’s” Goals for Ecological Conversion, below.

  1. Response to the cry of the Earth: work toward carbon neutrality through greater use of clean renewable energy and reduced fossil fuel use; support efforts to protect and promote biodiversity and guarantee water access for all.
  2. Response to the cry of the poor: defend human life from conception to death and all forms of life on Earth, while giving special attention to vulnerable groups such as indigenous communities, migrants and children at risk of trafficking and slavery.
  3. Ecological economics: support sustainable production, fair trade, ethical consumption and investments, investments in renewable energy, divestment from fossil fuels and limiting any economic activity harmful to the planet or people.
  4. Adoption of simple lifestyles: reduce use of energy and resources, avoid single-use plastics, adopt a more plant-based diet, reduce meat consumption and increase use of public transportation over polluting alternatives.
  5. Ecological education: redesign curricula around integral ecology, create ecological awareness and action, promote ecological vocation with young people and teachers.
  6. Ecological spirituality: recover a religious vision of God’s creation, promote creation-centered liturgical celebrations, develop ecological catechesis and prayers and encourage more time in nature.
  7. Emphasis on community involvement and participatory action around creation care at all levels of society by promoting advocacy and grassroots campaigns.

“As a member of MJP Earth Committee I am eager for us as a province to delve more deeply into our constitution #28 and to understand integral ecology at a deeper level,” says Sister Annette Seubert. “Our Earth today cries out for us to respond to the care of our common home.  Creation cries out in devastating fires, high winds and tropical storms; our suffering people cry out in illness and deaths from COVID 19 and racial inequality surfacing black lives matter protests, violence and white supremacist activities; our consciences cry out for justice and transformative soul-making. I believe God is inviting us to change our minds and our hearts, and to invest our energies into responding to the most urgent need of our world today; climate change and its impact on the whole of our Earth community.”

Integral ecology defined: everything is connected

Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si,” chapter 4, describes integral ecology as the interconnectedness of environmental, economic, political, social, cultural, and ethical issues.

Pope Francis in white outside among people waving to crowd
Pope Francis

Because everything is connected, we must take a holistic approach to what is both an environmental and human crisis: “…genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others.” (LS n 70)

Our current patterns of connecting people to each other do not make it possible for everyone to live well. Integral ecology requires “an integrated approach to combatting poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” (LS n 139)

“If everything is related, then the health of a society’s institutions has consequences for the environment and the quality of human life. Every violation of solidarity and civic friendship harms the environment. In this sense, social ecology is necessarily institutional, and gradually extends to the whole of society, from the primary social group, the family, to the wider local, national and international communities.” (LS n 142)

Nature’s Abba prayer

Chants of praise are sung in tongues of birds
and beasts, hallowing the creator whose isness
they proclaim in the skies and on Mother Earth,
Fish and fowl and all four-legged ones await
their daily sustenance and with eagerness nourish
themselves with what Providence provides.
Trees and plants sink deep their roots and extend
their branches to quench their thirst and receive
nutrients their being needs to sustain life.
May humanity learn to join in like engagement of table
fellowship, sharing bread and food, shelter and medical
care so all people can gratefully receive their basic needs.
May the two-legged ones ask forgiveness for destroying
the balance of all this livelihood. May they learn to live 
their existence with one another and not against.
Let all humankind be led from their paths of violence
and destruction to proclaim Justice-making for all and
come to celebrate our common home.
May all peoples be inspired to respect the diversity among
us and work for God’s KINDOM coming among all creation.
May they join nature’s praises that all may be one enjoying
the simple gifts of life. Amen. So it is, and so be it.

-Annette Seubert, SP 10/18/20