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Wednesday, 03 August 2011 16:05

Sisters show Mercy for the earth

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The Rahamim centre is based at the Sisters' historic St Joseph's Mount property, which has been their home since 1909.  The 4.7 hectare site includes the 1870s heritage house which doubles as an education centre, a community garden based on permaculture principles, a tree plantation, water habitat and labyrinth.

Rahamim is the Hebrew word for mercy, which is also associated with the womb and the love of a mother (and father) for the child of her womb.

Rahamim's Executive Officer, Sister Patricia Powell said the word evokes the 'cosmic womb' - a feminine symbol for the all-nourishing abyss out of which the universe emerged - a metaphor for the life-giving, life-sustaining Creator.

She says Rahamim's is a place that fosters community, earth literacy and spirituality.

"It is a lovely, peaceful place where people gather to share information and insights, meet experts and get involved in practical projects. They can also observe environmentally friendly technologies, participate in workshops and community gardens, stop and smell the flowers and take the time to appreciate a feathered friend or a frog."

Drawing on experts in particular areas, during 2010 Rahamim has hosted a range of workshops and courses including permaculture principles and design, cosmology for kids and Catholic Earthcare for teachers.  The Sisters have also created a variety of opportunities for visitors to explore the spirituality of ecology. They have held reflection days around the theme of 'Wonder and Awe' encouraging participants to immerse themselves in the mysteries and beauty of creation.  Other workshops have focused on stories from women in the scriptures, who responded to the earth with compassion, hospitality, love, friendship and healing.

On the weekend of 9 and 10 October as the men on Mount Panorama burnt fossil fuels in the car races, the Sisters of the Mount were retro-fitting solar panels to their heritage house for clean energy.

"We thought that was a nice juxtaposition," says Sister Patricia.

Installing the solar panels is part of a Rahamim project called 'Living with Water and Sun' which is focused on conserving and managing water and energy on the property. With the help of a grant from the NSW Government Climate Change Fund, the Sisters will be building a stormwater harvesting system which will involve landscaping to slow water run-off and create swales and reed beds to capture, treat and store rainwater for reuse.

Inside the St Joseph's Mount building, ceiling insulation, and solar hot water have been installed to help save 885,000 litres of water and 15 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year.

Another key focus is the community garden, which has been redesigned on permaculture principles and includes communal and individual plots. The labour was carried out by the Bathurst Correctional Centre Outreach Team and its Officer Scott Keen.  The men worked creatively to construct garden beds made from recycled cardboard, newspapers, rubble, railway sleepers and woodchip.

Within two weeks of opening the new garden, local families and individuals have claimed all the plots where they will be growing vegetables. A local group of young people with physical and intellectual disabilities will also be cultivating one of the garden beds.

"We are a small, but quite strategic organisation in this area," says Sister Patricia. "We generate a lot of ideas on environmental issues which are taken up by other groups in this city. Every second month Rahamjin hosts 'Green Drinks' -  a gathering of environmentally conscious people with a guest speaker and a relaxed atmosphere for discussion.

"Our main focus is to be a learning community. None of us knows everything we need to know about our environment but we are all learning together about how we can relate better as a human community with the planet's life support system."

Pathways October 2010

Have your say...

"Congratulations on your vision and action. Am so pleased that you have engaged the new cosmology in such a creative and practical way. It encourages those of us in Aotearoa new Zealand on similar paths in Mercy...the edge is becoming mainstream at last! "
- Katrina Fabish rsm, 04-11-2010