Earlier this week I was in Adelaide for a meeting of the Province Consult and as I walked out of a restaurant along the Parade in Norwood on Sunday night, my eye was drawn to a poster which said, “Love our planet, please recycle”. I shared this image with the students at our College Assembly on Wednesday where the focus was on “caring for our common home”. I reminded our students that one of Saint Ignatius’ favourite expressions was that “Love is shown more in deeds than in words”.
Over the next ten years, one of the four key apostolic priorities for Jesuits and all of our works, including the 800 plus Jesuit schools in 70 countries across the world, is caring for our common home. As Christians, we believe that God is our creator and that our lives and the world in which we live are gifts of love from our God. The current global pandemic has reminded us how interconnected we are across the world and that significant inequities exist in different regions – sometimes arising from access to technology, at other times flowing from different public health responses. I am conscious that over the last 12 months, there are many students at Jesuit schools in Asia and other parts of the world who have been engaging in various forms of online learning as it has not been safe for them to go to school in person due to the number of people suffering from COVID-19 in their cities and countries. In contrast, the dislocation and interruption we have experienced as a school community and as a society have been less, yet the impact has not been insignificant.
In 2015, Pope Francis wrote to everyone in the world in his encyclical Laudato Si about the importance of caring for the environment. In this letter he highlighted the reality that environmental degradation tends to affect people who are already experiencing poverty in different parts of the world. This is “because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us living creatures are dependent on one another (#42).” Pope Francis reminded us that, “when we fail to protect the environment, we fail to hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (#49).
As a Jesuit school, we encourage each other to be men and women for others, and this includes being open to reflecting upon the gift of creation and how our own habits and ways of living contribute to protecting our common home and sometimes contribute to degrading our common home. There are so many factors at play globally that contribute to the environmental challenges our planet is facing – this includes water supply and security, pollution, our built environment especially building designs and transportation systems, consumerism, technology, food production, deforestation, the political discourse and government policies and the list goes on. At times it can feel overwhelming, yet, how we respond will and does make a difference.
I reminded the staff and students on Wednesday that we are called to stand in solidarity, respecting our fellow human beings, to show our love of God and our neighbour through what we do. In Laudato Si, Pope Francis encourages us to act in some simple ways such as “avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing our water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can be reasonably consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or carpooling, planting trees, and turning off unnecessary lights” (#211). This is what being a man or woman for others looks like when we ponder how we can care for our common home.
I want to acknowledge and congratulate our staff and students for the generous way they responded to the invitation to participate in our Zero Waste Day initiative which included a focus on mindful eating. My hope is that we can continue to build upon this, showing through our actions that we are grateful for the gift of our common home and that we do indeed love our planet and deeply care for our fellow human beings, especially those people who live in parts of the world that are experiencing various environmental stresses.
Wishing you all every blessing.