The Catholic Church across Yorkshire's historic West Riding since 1878

The Catholic Church across Yorkshire's historic West Riding since 1878

Caring for the Earth: Our Common Home

Around thirty people from ten parishes across the Diocese gathered at SS John Fisher and Thomas More Parish in Burley in Wharfedale on Saturday 30 March to reflect more deeply about Caring for our Common Home: the Earth. This Day of Reflection organised by the Justice and Peace Commission was also partly a trial run for some of the resources that CAFOD has recently developed for celebrating creation in a parish setting.

The day started with the usual parish Mass and included some Prayers of Intercession especially written by CAFOD for a creation celebration. These were read by the Commission’s Chair, John Battle.  The parish priest, Fr Michael Mahady, used a special Eucharistic Prayer centred on Justice and Peace. These simple additions made a good preparation for the rest of the day.

The more formal part of the day started with a reflection using some of the key quotes from Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’. Following this there were some short inputs to explore what the Pope meant when he talks about ‘integral ecology’, ‘ecological conversion’ and ‘community conversion’. Everyone then ‘buzzed’ in smaller groups for a few minutes to explore their own understanding and experience of what the Pope was trying to get across.

The morning session ended with some ‘Stations of the Forest’ a reflection about how we are abusing the forests and destroying our environment in the pursuit of profit, a video resource developed by the Columbans. Those attending had been invited to bring something to share at lunchtime and they had responded generously – so with the option of some delicious homemade soup and bread provided by our hosts, we all had a good lunch! CAFOD’s Resources for Celebrating Creation were made available for people to browse and take away with them. The grace for lunch was taken from a ‘grace dice’ that CAFOD has developed as part of these resources. The local parish had also arranged a Fairtrade stall for people to browse and stock up on Fairtrade goods (just because it is a good thing to do – rather than stocking up because of the impending threat of Brexit!)

The afternoon session started with a guided reflection about our five senses. This was followed by some consideration of where our reflection might lead us: what kinds of action might we take. Michael Emly, from Our Lady of Kirkstall Parish in Leeds, spent a few minutes explaining all the actions which the three church communities in that parish had taken over the last two years as part of working towards the CAFOD ‘Live Simply’ award. The surveys they have undertaken since the start of the process show that a significant number of people have changed their lifestyle as a result of the programme. Moreover, there has been significant involvement from people in the church communities and across the wider community, renewing the parish and bringing parishioners together. Michael’s input was followed by two short videos: one showing indigenous people from the Philippines resisting mineral and mining exploitation of their land and the other about Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish climate activist.

As in the morning, people were asked to ‘buzz’ for a few minutes in smaller groups about what they had seen and heard. They were also asked to commit to an action that they could take away from the day. We finished up the day with a final Liturgy where people came and placed their actions – which had been written on paper in the shape of a leaf – on to a tree to symbolise the hope of new growth flourishing from the seeds planted that day.

Joe Burns, Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission