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Monday, 21 September 2015 22:43

Encouraging a culture of care

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Sr Berneice Loch rsm150 2015As members of religious institutes, we want to be front and centre in responding to Pope Francis’ call for both simple acts and participation in the larger societal strategies to bring about positive change in our world, writes CRA President Sister Berneice Loch rsm.

As I prepare this article, there are reports in the media arising from satellite images from NASA which show that large sections of Greenland and Antarctica are vanishing at a rapid rate. So frightening are these reports, experts now fear an ice sheet the size of Queensland is melting so quickly it will cause massive storm surges capable of decimating Australia’s coastal cities within the next century.

At the same time, we are continuing to experience the ever so shocking displacement of Syrians, with a staggering 11 million people displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance, on top of millions of others from other countries fleeing death and persecution.

These are of course just two examples of an ever growing list which could be drawn of what can seem like chaos confronting our planet. An ongoing challenge for all of us is how we respond, particularly when there seems to be so much to be done and when it can be hard to see our efforts at times having a tangible effect.

In Laudato Si', Francis cites the example of Saint Therese of Lisieux and the invitation which she offered to practice little ways of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or a small gesture which sows peace and friendship. He says ‘an integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness’ (230).

In seeking to bring light to darkness in the world, simple daily gestures can go far beyond merely scratching the surface and can bring about lasting change.

I am sure all of us could cite examples throughout history of people who have undertaken small acts whose positive impact is still being felt today. A person who comes to mind is Rosa Parks, who through not giving up her seat in the white section of a segregated bus in 1955, played a significant contribution to the turn of events which 60 years later has resulted in a black American President in the White House today.

Francis also calls us in Laudato Si' to recognise that we must also be moved to devise larger strategies to address environmental and other issues, one which he describes should encourage a ‘culture of care’ which should permeate all of society (231).

As members of religious institutes, we want to be front and centre in responding to Francis’ call for both simple acts and participation in the larger societal strategies to bring about positive change in our world. Our ongoing challenge is to always ensure that we maintain our focus, in an increasingly complex world and that we, in the words of Francis, leave ourselves open for God to ‘seize us with your power and light, help us to protect all life, to prepare for a better future, for the coming of your Kingdom of justice, peace, love and beauty’ (Extract from a prayer given in Rome at St Peter’s on 24 May and reproduced in Laudato Si').

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