Glenairley Centre for Earth and Spirit

31 March 08 | Posted in Global Catholic

“Long before the Sisters of St. Ann (SSA) had heard of creation spirituality or knew the names of Brian Swimme, Thomas Berry, Diarmuid O’Murchu, those serving in leadership in the late 1950s, early 1960s recognized the potential healing value of the natural environment,” writes Sheila Moss of the Sisters of Saint Ann

The nuns purchased a piece of property in the wilds of East Sooke on Vancouver Island, British Columbia to provide the sisters a place of rest, renewal and recreation. Each summer they arrived in droves from the classroom, from wherever they had been serving in ministry to enjoy this haven of natural beauty.

As time went on, “Glenairley” became a place to be shared with others, as the Sisters invited different groups to share the benefits of the sea, the fields, the woods and the closeness of the Creator God. People from the inner city, from poetry and art groups, from social justice organizations, from the Contemplative Society and other groups found their way to east Sooke. untitled.bmp

“Promoting ecological responsibility is always a priority for a Sister of Saint Ann. We strive to live in Right Relationship with God, with self, with one another, with others and the cosmos…”  

In 2001 the Sisters of St. Ann began to discern a more sustainable and long-term plan for Glenairley. They recognized the need to work in partnership with another group. This process culminated in the decision to enter into a lease partnership with the Centre for Earth and Spirit Society. The SSA saw this project as “daring and creative, and coming out of a spirituality that is pivotal to the well being of the earth and its inhabitants.” Glenairley became “Glenairley – Centre for Earth and Spirit” on January 1, 2004.

This nonprofit ecological centre is “committed to the protection and healing of Earth through fostering a mutually enhancing human-Earth relationship.” Glenairley offers a mix of programs and resources linking the earth and spirituality.

Earth Hour

Earth Hour started with a question: How can we inspire people to take action on climate change? The answer: Ask the people of Sydney, Australia to turn off their lights for one hour.earth-hour.jpg

On March 31, 2007, 2.2 million people and 2100 businesses in Sydney turned off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour. If the greenhouse reduction achieved in Sydney during Earth Hour was sustained for one year, it would be equivalent to taking 48,616 cars off the road for a year.

Earth Hour founder, Andy Ridley, said 371 cities and towns from Australia to Canada–35 countries in all–had signed up for the 60-minute shutdown at 8 pm on March 29, 2008.

Ridley, who began Earth Hour last year while working with WWF Australia, said the initiative was about individuals and global communities joining together to own a shared problem – climate change.

Cities officially signed on include Chicago, San Francisco, Dublin, Manila, Bangkok, Copenhagen and Toronto, all of which will switch off lights on major landmarks and encourage businesses and homeowners to follow suit.

“Switching off the lights for an hour is not going to make a dent in global emissions,” said WWF organizer, Charles Stevens. “But what it does do is it is a great catalyst for much bigger changes. It engages people in the processes of becoming more energy efficient.”

Catholics in Toronto who wish to express their love of Earth liturgically will have a chance on March 29th when St. Basil’s Church holds “Earth Hour” vespers.

St. Basil’s, located at Bay and St. Joseph Streets, will mark the occasion with candlelight vespers from 8 to 9 pm. The prayers and readings for the service will focus on creation and the Christian responsibility to be good stewards.

They Killed Sister Dorothy

25 March 08 | Posted in Arts and Letters, Global Catholic, Stewardship

Last night I attended a private screening of “They Killed Sister Dorothy,” a documentary about Sister Dorothy Stang, S.N.D., an environmental activist who was murdered in Brazil in 2005. She began her ministry there in 1966.accent_stang.jpg

A citizen of Brazil and the United States, Sr. Dorothy worked with the Pastoral Land Commission, an organization of the Catholic Church that fights for the rights of rural workers and peasants, and defends land reforms in Brazil. Her death came less than a week after meeting with the country’s human rights officials about threats to local farmers from loggers and ranchers.

After receiving several death threats, Sr. Dorothy commented, “I don’t want to flee, nor do I want to abandon the battle of these farmers who live without any protection in the forest. They have the sacrosanct right to aspire to a better life on land where they can live and work with dignity while respecting the environment.”

The film’s producers are outreaching to Catholic groups, environmentalists like the Rainforest Alliance, and other socially-minded people and organizations who want to support the poor in finding sustainable  livelihoods.

I found the film very timely, with a growing interest by Catholics around the world in environmental protection, and the ways its abuses fall disproportionally hard on the poor and marginalized.

Just Food

23 March 08 | Posted in Food, Lifestyle

Shortly after New Year, my partner and I changed our whole diet. We went from pre-cooked food to eating mostly fresh vegetables. We both lost a lot of weight, but most importantly, our health and energy levels have improved. We feel better and look better. It all had to do with the food we ate.

Even going from prepared food, our weekly food bill has gone up. It costs a lot of money to eat healthy–and since “organic” may be a marketing strategy as well as a designation, I don’t necessarily buy organic products all the time. Even so, a shopping cart with mostly fresh produce and “green-friendly” items is pretty expensive.

This experience has gotten me started on thinking about food as a social justice issue.  Can only the affluent afford to eat well? Is the only option for everyone else starch and fast food?

I did a little searching and found this article, “Organic Justice:  Helping Poor People Buy Organic Food Directly from Farmers” on the Organic Consumers Association site.

The article provided other links to Just Food and Local Harvest, which help to direct people to local farms and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) projects. Local Harvest described several ways  poor people can purchase fresh produce, including the use of EBTs for payment and working with nonprofits where wealthier CSA members can help subsidize the weekly food baskets of others.farmers_market_018_small.jpg

An innovative solution was developed by Crystine Goldberg of Uprising Farm in Washington State.

Goldberg and her partner Brian Campbell founded Uprising Organics Farm with two intentions: saving heirloom and open pollinated seeds, and getting good food to people regardless of income. After three seasons as market farmers, Goldberg and Campbell started a small CSA last year. It exclusively serves low income people, and the members pay with electronic food stamp benefits known as EBT.

Read more here.

Bishops Step Up Campaign Against Mining

21 March 08 | Posted in Global Catholic, Sin Bin

Three senior Roman Catholic bishops stepped up their campaign against the mining industry saying it destroyed both the environment and the local communities.

“Mining in the Philippines not only destroys the environment but has become the vehicle for the violation of human rights, enthnocide of indigenous communities, and even deaths,” said Bishop Sergio Utleg as they launched “Anti-Mining Solidarity week.” utleg2-a.jpg

Utleg, chairman of a special commission on tribal communities on the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, charged that encouraging mining investment in this impoverished country was a violation of human rights.

Bishop Ramon Villena also said only foreign and local investors were benefiting from the resurgence of the mining industry which President Arroyo has been promoting.

Fellow Bishop Deogracis Iniguez said he hoped the anti-mining week would drum up support for opposition to the industry.

The mining industry, which employs about 140,000 people, has enjoyed a revival in recent months, thanks to the opening of the sector to foreign investment, a measure promoted by Mrs. Arroyo.

Read more on Save Rapu Rapu.