Clean up Australia Day March 3rd

The parish community together with the local council have since transformed the area into a community garden complete with a freshen-up of fences and benches - Photo: Fr Javier Nuñez

Columban missionaries are inspired to act for creation

Each year, Clean-up Australia Day draws people into practical action to care for their local environments on the first Sunday of March. Started over thirty years ago, the event is now the largest day of environmental action in the country. Community events help inspire actions in everyday life as people get motivated to do more by seeing the positive impacts of their efforts and working alongside others who also want to make things better. Consuming less, recycling right, making use of container deposit schemes, minimising packaging with purchases and getting involved in other care for creation activities and advocacy are some ways. 

Seeing that keeping rubbish out of the community has a cascade of positive benefits, Columban missionaries in Santiago, Chile worked with the local council to solve a serious waste problem. For several years, the front of the San Columbano chapel, one of the nine chapels of the San Matias parish had been turned into an illegal dump. The parish community together with the local council have since transformed the area into a community garden complete with a freshen-up of fences and benches, says Javier Nuñez, Communications Officer, Missionary Society of St Columban Society in Chile. Columban Fr Genovio Cho recently celebrated a Eucharist and led the opening of the community garden to mark the achievement.   

In another part of the world, Dorothy Day (1897 –1980) co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement was a faithful woman of the gospel in her times. Dorothy supported people living in poverty, fostered non-violence and promoted justice. Her courageous and prophetic legacy continues to inspire. As well as her more prominent works for humanity, Dorothy Day was devoted to the land.  “Environmental degradation is usually called progress; Dorothy called it a form of poverty,” says Kate Hennessy, granddaughter of Dorothy Day.[1] 

Yet even in the most dire circumstances, Dorothy Day saw the gift and potential of beauty and was committed to staying the distance. Reflecting on this visionary quality of her grandmother, Kate Hennessy tells of the power of beauty to change human hearts and behaviours. Nonetheless, “Opening up to beauty isn’t easy; it isn’t mere sentimentality,” she says.[2] Rather trusting the willingness to be moved by new insights about the world to which we are intimately joined follows bit by bit from our commitments. 

Lent is an invitation to give special attention to our journeys in faith and our baptismal call to be for others. Lent too is a time for repentance and forgiveness of all that has not been right. Today the Church recognises that we are called to conversion of heart and mind in our relationships not only with God and other people but also with the wider community of God’s creation.

[1] Kate Hennessy, Open yourself up to beauty (London: The Tablet, 15th July 2023.)

[2] Hennessy, Open yourself up to beauty.

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

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