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Wednesday, 03 August 2011 05:07

Leaders commit to environmental sustainability

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Held from 28 June to 2 July, the 115 Australian nuns, priests and brothers were joined by representatives from New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, and by Bishop Michael Malone, Chair of the Bishops Commission from the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and Bishop Brian Heenan, Bishop of Rockhampton. Archbishop Adrian Doyle, Archbishop of Tasmania celebrated Mass with the group and shared some of the Catholic history of Tasmania.

Over the three and a half days the delegates considered the importance that a commitment to ecology and sustainability places upon followers of Jesus. They also took part in workshops on cosmology, sustainability, the spirituality of Father Julian Tenison Woods and the Franciscan Friars' systematic journey to ecological conversion. Other sessions included forest types and management and solutions to making heritage buildings such as many of the old convents and presbyteries, ecologically-friendly.

The leaders were challenged, informed and inspired by a range of speakers including Father Denis Edwards who spoke on ecological conversion and faith in Jesus Christ and ecology and Eucharist.

In his keynote address Father Denis called for an ecological conversion that involves a new way of seeing, thinking and acting.

He said this conversion would see the world with a loving eye not an arrogant eye as described by American theologian Sallie McFague.

Elizabeth Pike from the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry in Melbourne moved delegates with her reflection on her life, her faith and her deep connection to the land.

In discussing the critical role values play in securing a safe climate, Senator Christine Milne, Greens' spokesperson on climate change, urged religious leaders to start conversations in communities on the stewardship of caring for the earth.

Sister Anne Derwin rsj, who was elected the new president of Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) at the assembly, said all the leaders were very nourished as a result of the time together, interaction and the presentations.

"The theme of ecology and the following of Jesus was really appreciated by the group. I personally, have been challenged by our speakers, workshop presenters and by my fellow delegates.

"I left Hobart feeling renewed and energised to take up the ecological challenge."

Sister Anne said one of the ways CRA would be taking up the ecological challenge was by providing information on the CRA website and in the e-newsletter Pathways on ecological and sustainable initiatives by religious orders and others, as well as practical ways of caring for the earth.

She said over the coming months CRA's council would also be investigating other ways they could take action on climate change and share what they have learnt on the theology and spirituality of ecology.

Sister Enid Wood OP, Congregational Leader of the Dominican Sisters in Adelaide, said the conference highlighted for her the importance of ecology and sustainability from a spiritual point of view as well as being practical and a necessity.

Father Ray Hevern, Regional Leader of the Pallottine Fathers and Brothers in Perth said the conference was very life-giving.

"Coming from Western Australia there is a certain amount of isolation so it is great to be with people who are your peers. It was a widening and enriching experience and I have taken inspiration from all the people I have listened to and met."

Sister Scholastica Banik, Leader of the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Papua New Guinea said the conference was very enriching.

"I was made feel very welcome and it was wonderful to share with each other and to feel part of a wider religious community. Coming from PNG it was also great to hear Betty Pike speak. We have a connection with Aboriginal people and I found what she said very touching."