July 21, 2017
The annual Lifelong Learning event: 32nd Monastic Institute shone new light on environment stewardship for monastic community, religious, and lay ministers from various age on July 2-6, 2017. Driven by today’s challenges on environment sustainability, Monastic Institute chose to reflect on Laudato Si’- Pope Francis’ encyclical on the care for our common home (nature). With the title: A Monastic Response to Caring for Our Common Home, a number of sixty-five participants together rediscovered our sacred call to caring for the environment and creation, which is a part of our genesis as human persons created in the image and likeness of God. God grants humans the power to “rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28), yet most of what we see today is nature exploitation, global warm to the misused of power and economy. This power abuse has conditioned human generation to see nature as a mere thing, exploit it, and reduce the sacred essence of nature as God’s creation.
Monsignor Kevin Irwin from Catholic University of America lead off this year’s Institute discussion on the steps of writing Laudato Si’ which developed from papal letters since Pope Leo XIII, and the sacramentality of creation and its role in liturgy. Moreover, S. Michelle L’Allier, OSF from Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, Minnesota brought the Institute to learn about the inter-dependence relationship between us and all creation, and the call to respond to the poor who are effected by environmental exploitation through the lenses of Franciscan tradition. L’Allier claimed it is important for inner conversion to happen so that global solidarity might be formed and developed. Following a call to global solidarity, Dr. Evans focused on Pope Francis’ critique of “economies that kill” continued leading the Institute to discuss the negative effect of capitalism which has excluded many people especially the poor and exploited the life of nature due to growth of consumption. The culture of exclusion that is the foundation of this type of economy has conditioned the human generation to take-without-giving-back to nature and this one-sided relationship driven by individualistic mentality creates such as hostility in the world we live in today. Responding to the hostile world, S. Anne McCarthy, OSB from Benedictine Sisters of Erie integrated the Benedictine practices and spirituality into her reflection of Laudato Si’, promoting peace and environmental stewardship. McCarthy concluded her session with small prayer which was done by passing the bowl of soil to each other saying “Body of Christ, Our Divine Mother”. Finally, Abbott John Klassen of Saint John’s Abbey and Dr. Barbara Sutton from SOT closed the Monastic Institute with group activity and discussion on what concrete steps that monastic community could take to fulfill this call of caring for the environment and promoting peace and environmental stewardship. McCarthy concluded her session with small prayer which was done by passing the bowl of soil to each other saying “Body of Christ, Our Divine Mother”. Finally, Abbott John Klassen of Saint John’s Abbey and Dr. Barbara Sutton from SOT closed the Monastic Institute with group activity and discussion on what concrete steps that monastic community could take to fulfill this call of caring for the environment and promoting peace and justice in the hostile world.
This year’s Monastic Institute brought so much rediscovery, hope and inspiration for the participants based on the enthusiasm on the topic, intriguing dialogue, and positive feedback we received. Together we rediscovered that we cannot separate nature from humanity, and it is our sacred call to care for it. The message of inclusivity, peace, and caring for all echoed throughout the Institute from day one to the last day and hope will continue to the next generation.
To the beauty of the earth,
M. Div candidate