Religious congregations 'Sowing Hope for the Planet'

A campaign that places special focus on religious congregations' efforts to heed Pope Francis' call to environmental stewardship and their continued work to put his words into action is making inroads, reports Global Sisters Report.

Sr Sheila Kinsey, executive co-secretary for the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the International Union of Superiors General.  (Photo:  GSR /supplied)

Sr Sheila Kinsey, executive co-secretary for the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the International Union of Superiors General. (Photo: GSR/supplied)

Started in June 2018, the Sowing Hope for the Planet campaign challenged congregations to find ways, both personally and in their communities, to implement the message of the pope's encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home."

Leading the effort has been Sr Sheila Kinsey, a member of the Franciscan Sisters, Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and executive co-secretary for the International Union of Superiors General’s (UISG) Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission. That commission partnered with the Global Catholic Climate Movement to promote Sowing Hope for the Planet, with more than 250 congregations taking part. A survey launched in March has tracked sisters' participation, with the hope to identify best practices that can be expanded.

During the recent UISG assembly in Rome of women religious leaders around the world, Sr Sheila provided the 850 superiors general gathered there with a progress report on Sowing Hope for the Planet. Sisters were also encouraged to appoint contact people within their congregations to broaden the campaign, including through participation and support of the upcoming special synod on the Amazon, set for October in Rome.

Sr Sheila Kinsey speaks during a webinar in October 2018 about the Sowing Hope for the Planet campaign (Photo:  GSR /supplied)

Sr Sheila Kinsey speaks during a webinar in October 2018 about the Sowing Hope for the Planet campaign (Photo: GSR/supplied)

Speaking to Global Sisters Report, Sr Sheila said already Laudato Si' had spread throughout religious communities, becoming a deeply meaningful connection with people and the Earth through faith and the words of Pope Francis.

“This realisation led to the awareness that this connection has the potential to develop a deeper interconnection, carrying the message into a global network of religious working together to ‘hear the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor’,” she said.

“Using this collective listening to create a collective voice and collective action carries greater potential for effect than we can offer alone.”

Sr Sheila said congregations have taken part in a variety of inspiring ways.

“There are many who are engaging Laudato Si', bringing in the whole community in shared reflection with study sessions; developing resources to teach parents, teachers and catechists how to implement Laudato Si'; and reflection groups, some of which are also reading books that develop the themes of Laudato Si',” she said.

Some events at the local level include sisters writing a commitment to the planet during an October 4 celebration (the feast of St. Francis of Assisi); potlucks at church-sponsored events using biodegradable cold cups, which can be composted with food waste; education and action in understanding food, such as fair-trade articles, waste management (composting and recycling) and ecological cleaning products.

“These are beautiful demonstrations of concrete ways we can engage in our daily lives and communities,” Sr Sheila said.

“One community is even supporting a project to offset their carbon footprint by contributing to a fund for the development and care of Earth projects in countries of Africa. Coming together in this way, our united voice reaches out into the world.”