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Wednesday, 03 August 2011 05:35

Franciscans follows in footsteps of Francis

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Helping the more than 100 friars from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia to do this is Sarah Menassa-Rose, the province's animator for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC).

The former geography, international studies and religious studies teacher has been working for the Franciscan Friars for the past 3 years. She has a Master of Arts in Theological Studies, a Master of Education in Educational Leadership and a background in liturgy and social justice programs in schools.

Passionate about her job, Sarah's role involves working with the friars on JPIC issues and how to respond to them, and managing various ecological and justice projects on their behalf.

One of the key environmental initiatives Sarah has been leading is the Earth Project, which is one of six JPIC priorities identified by the Franciscan Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission three years ago.

The project involves conducting environmental assessments at all Franciscan properties throughout the province including the order's school, Padua College in Brisbane.

Working with Carbon Systems Australia and Catholic Earthcare Australia, the audit comprises measuring and collating water, electricity and gas usage.  Connected with the audit is information sharing on sustainable initiatives already being undertaken by friars, sessions on Catholic social teaching on ecology and the environment, and inspiration from the spirituality, life and work of St Francis of Assisi, declared the patron saint of the environment by Pope John Paul II in 1979.

In the next 12 months Sarah will be presenting a report on energy consumption across the province. She and the friars will examine the results and look at ways they can use energy and water more efficiently.

"Our focus is on living the gospel as St Francis did and reading the signs of the times," says Sarah.  "Reading the signs of the times is telling us that we need to reduce our carbon footprint and care for our environment.

"So the aim of this project has been to really see what we are doing in terms of energy use, and have the information to understand how we can manage our footprint on this earth more sustainably."

Other ecological priorities include networking with groups involved in justice, peace and ecology projects including collaborating with organisations such as the Pacific Calling Partnership at the Edmund Rice Centre. This group is involved in assisting the peoples of low-lying Pacific Islands to face the impact of climate change upon their fragile environment. Financially supporting eco-pastoral projects in Timor Leste and West Timor are other JPIC initiatives.

"We want to live for what we stand for," says Sarah. "It is important to animate the Friars to live the spirituality of Francis and to be able to show others the importance of this. And this means moving away from the image of St Francis and the bird bath and as the patron of animals, but as the patron of ecology which is the interaction between the natural and the human world."

Fr Paul Smith OFM, Provincial Minister of the Franciscan Friars, says Sarah has highlighted the values of JPIC in the friars' consciousness, particularly focusing on the integrity of creation which is part of their Franciscan charism.

"Sarah has worked on converting our hearts, not just our actions, so that we see and believe that sustainability and care for the environment are part of life, not simply because many resources are finite, but because we respect our world as God's creation.

"When the environmental audit has enough data, it will most likely show us areas where we can improve on our relationship with Mother Earth. The exercise will achieve little if the friars are not on board and open to change. And that's what Sarah does so well and naturally: she animates us to see, believe and live what we profess as followers of St Francis of Assisi."

Pathways September 2010

Have your say...

"I will be encouraging others to follow your lead. Many thanks for caring for earth in this way."
- Mary Tinney, 26-09-2010

"One Friar who lives what he stands for is Stephen Bliss previous provincial. When one of his friars became aware he had only a short time to live, as his spiritual father, asked Stephen to have his request for a Rescript of his Vows for his child and mother to finalised experditially. This he did and more, knowing it could be very well be the wish of a dying son as a father. Unfortunately the election of a new Provincial failed to see this request followed through. The Friar father is still waiting, so too his family. Who is the true son of St Francis. "
- L Newington, 21-11-2010