Radical Statement at Waterford Laudato Si conference
Speaking at a conference in Waterford in May, Fr Sean McDonagh, an internationally renowned eco-theologian said it was now time to act on the moral issues arising out of damaging the environment. ‘We must now consider damage to our eco-systems as a sin’. This startling statement came at a conference organised jointly by the Dioceses of Waterford and Lismore and the Waterford Public Participation Network (PPN.
‘The aim of the conference is to mainstream in the parishes and in our communities the ideas of the papal encyclical Laudato Si’: Caring for our Common Home’, said Ray McGrath, co-chair of the event attended by over 60 delegates at St Pauls Paris Centre, adding that ‘in many ways the encyclical is revolutionary, challenging all of us to care more for our immediate environment, that small part of our common home, which we share with the rest of nature.’
The conference was jointly organised by the Dioceses of Waterford and Lismore and the Waterford Public Participation Network (PPN). Representatives of parishes from throughout the city and county were among the participants. And the PPN is an umbrella body of close to 600 groups from the community and voluntary sector. ‘We feel it’s high time now for the environmental movement to initiate a broader conversation about the challenges of climate change and the cataclysmic loss of biodiversity, and so this collaboration between the environmental group of the PPN and the Dioceses is an important step in that direction,’ added McGrath.
The conference was opened by Fr Liam Power, PP, St Benildus, St Joseph and St Mary. Fr Power referred to the ecological conversion that Pope Francis said was now required from all – governments and individuals in order to safeguard a healthy and just world for ourselves and future generations. ‘And this conversion must come at first from the heart’, added Fr Power.
Justin Kilkullen, formerly CEO of Trócaire and now Chairman of Social Justice Ireland, explained how his Parish in South Dublin was implementing measures in response to the Pope’s call for action. Shankill Action for a Green Earth (SAGE) has put in place over the last two years a comprehensive set of practical and easily implementable actions. Conference participants were very impressed by these actions and some of these appeared in the menu of practical, doable, short and medium term actions to be recommended to parishes and communities. For example St Benildus will be working towards an Eco Congregation Award through its Greening of the Parish project.
Senator Grace O’Sullivan also spoke at the conference adding her voice to the call for action at local and parish level. ‘Working together we can meet the challenge of climate change and loss of biodiversity. I will continue to work for a greater awareness of the need for immediate action. We are at a critical point in our ecological history and we all have to play our part.’
The Steering group consisting of conference co-chairs, Denise Hughes and Ray McGrath, Deirdre Barry, Diocesan secretary, Fr Liam Power and John Hawkes, PPN co-ordinator have already started a follow up with the parishes and community groups and are looking forward to a very positive response. A similar event is being planned for 2019.