Celebrating the gift of wildlife

 Australia is also home to half of the world’s marsupial species - Photo:canva.comAustralia is also home to half of the world’s marsupial species - Photo:canva.com

World Wildlife Day takes place on 3rd March.  It is an annual celebration of the world’s animals and plants.

World Wildlife Day is a celebration of the world’s animals and plants. Here in Australia, it is marvellous to know that the flora and fauna that live alongside us are unique in the world.  Australia and its surrounding oceans support an estimated 600,000 to 700,000 native species, and about 85% of Australia's plant species are found nowhere else in the world.   Australia is also home to half of the world’s marsupial species.  Yet climate change, habitat loss and invasive species have become increasing threats to species in the last five years (State of the Environment Report 2021).  These threats are part of a global situation that impacts humans too. 

Faith urges us to build relationships of mutual responsibility between humans and the whole of creation.  Columban co-worker Wesley Cocozello says, "the first step to building this new relationship is to re-examine the assumptions and values we have taken for granted….we have the opportunity to expand our imaginations and to see the world with fresh eyes" (Jubilee for the Earth: A podcast on biodiversity and our sacred story).

Indigenous people have always nurtured their relationship with all creation and passed it down through generations in their stories, values and laws.  Here in Australia, we are blessed to live on a land inhabited by the world's longest, continuous culture.   Sabrina Stevens, a Kuku Yalanji and Yidinji woman from Far North Queensland and Youth Participation Coordinator at Caritas Australia says, "nature is always speaking to us; we just need to learn different ways of listening and hearing so we can act with love and respect to care for our common home."

A Columban co-worker recently participated in a sustainability event in Melbourne. Mandy Nicholson, a Wurundjeri-willam woman from Healesville, Victoria, was the first presenter.  Mandy began with a powerful Welcome to Country offered first in Woiwurrung, her mother tongue and then in English.  Mandy shared stories from her culture with joy and happiness to show how every part of Country is sacred and has its own unique purpose. In response, many people jumped up at the invitation to participate in a traditional dance with the Djirri Djirri Wurundjeri women's dance group.  Eels and other animals were a feature of the dances. Aboriginal people collected eels in traps and baskets in the local area, always taking only what was needed and following the way of Lore handed down through generations. 

The forty days of Lent is a special time each year for Christians to listen closely to what God calls us to anew.  A parish priest shared how we can think of Lent as a springtime of the heart, even here in the southern hemisphere. In his Lenten resource for 2023, A Short History of Happiness: Lent to Easter,’ Columban Fr Charles Rue says,

“Let us celebrate that God has launched us on an adventure into happiness.  In its twists and turns, we find the presence of God if we travel in faith.  Scripture reminds us that we will find refreshment for ourselves and become messengers of peace for others.

Intercession: The Land – God said the land belonged to him.  That we ask forgiveness for lands stolen or abused, remembering that we belong to the land and are called to treat it with respect and care. 
We pray …”

Sr Caroline Vaitkunas RSM
Peace, Ecology and Justice Office
Columban Mission Centre, Essendon

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