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Laudato Si’

Parishes Caring for Creation

Uniting Faith and Action: Inspiring Change at the 'Parishes Caring for Creation' Conference

“Parishes Caring for Creation” conference held on the 24th of November. Photo: Trocaire “Parishes Caring for Creation” conference held on the 24th of November. Photo: Trocaire

On the 24th of November, around 220 people gathered in a fabulous setting in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, to attend an inspiring Conference called “Parishes Caring for Creation”. A collaboration between Trócaire, the Archdiocese of Dublin and the Laudato Si’ Movement, this conference aimed to help parish communities respond to the ecological crises in the spirit of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical on care for our common home. How can faith communities can respond to the challenges our world faces at this moment?

In the morning, four inspirational speakers took to the floor: Archbishop Dermot Farrell called us to action, challenging us to come out of our inertia and dream of solutions to the world problems, affecting health, food production, poverty and migration.  “Our future”, he said, “and the future of our planet depends on facing up to our responsibility both globally and locally.” He placed a hopeful message: “Our faith is founded on the One who came to take fear away”, so he encouraged us to “support positively a personal commitment to change and inclusion, which sees the interrelatedness of all”, and with a sense of finitude and limit, aware that we do not have infinite resources.

Prof John Sweeney reminded us of the string of extreme weather events and climate disasters we are experiencing, and how each person in Ireland is on average responsible for 1 tonne of greenhouse gas emissions per month, with Irish per capita emissions (11.9 tons per year) 50% higher than the EU average (7.0 tons per year), a good reminder that it is time for us to reconsider how we live, and to move into action! He also brought to our attention that the huge reduction in biodiversity since the emergence of humans is now on the scale of the sixth mass extinction due to human activity. Paraphrasing Pope Francis, we need to accompany our immense technological development by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience. Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.

Lorna Gold pointedly spoke about how the changes that are necessary do not come without suffering. It is not easy to make changes in our families, in our ways to live and eat, but these efforts are now essential and will be worth it for nature and for all our futures. Lorna emphasised how we need to bring the concept of integral ecology to our parishes, to the way we prepare children and adults for the sacraments, to the way we celebrate liturgies; and it is time to bring the love of the God to our every situation.  Lorna said that the Pope is going to COP28, but he won’t be able to make a miracle there, the miracle will happen only in our hearts, everything we do matters. Each of us has a circle of influence within which we can engage with other people and influence many towards a greater concern for God’s creation. Lorna encouraged us to increase our circle of influence to address our concerns. In the words of Pope Francis, “Let us sing as we go”.

Sr Nellie McLaughlin, RSM spoke about the old story of separation and dominance falling away and a new one emerging story of interconnectedness: we human beings are beings affecting each other constantly forming the oneness of all life. She spoke about how we are genetically and energetically related to the entire community of creation: “The challenge is to recover the theology of creation, to celebrate the sacredness of all God’s creation and this awareness become a way of life rather than an issue among issues.” She left us with some very important questions, to be asked of ourselves personally and collectively, about which world we are envisioning, what are we giving energy to and what is already flourishing and with whom can we partner to make it grow.

Many groups were present at the ‘Marketplace’, ranging from organisations mainly focused on the spiritual journey of discovery and conversion to schools sharing their work for the environment, to the wonders of making beautiful bags out of waste materials to name but a few. Parishes were able to access information on energy grants, local community grants to help bring their eco projects to life.

The six workshops taking place in the afternoon, ranged from eco-congregations to Laudato Si’ Awards to SEAI grants for cleaner energies, to the role of Laudato Si’ animators among others. The ideas and the energy gathered around the workshops were tremendous, and everybody left the meeting with hope and the strength of knowing that there are many of us walking this same path of working towards a better future of caring for the environment in a practical way.

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