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Reconciling with creation and renewing mission in Micronesia and beyond

30 June 2016
The JCAP workshop participants in Bendum with the Pantaron range as a backdrop, Dave is at the back row, 9th from left. Photo credit: A Ignacio

The JCAP workshop participants in Bendum with the Pantaron range as a backdrop, Dave is at the back row, 9th from left. Photo credit: A Ignacio

David Andrus, SJ

In a brief report to the Jesuits of Micronesia, David Andrus, SJ shares his experience as one of the participants to the Reconciling with Creation Reflection Workshop of the Jesuit Conference Asia Pacific (JCAP)  held at the Culture and Ecology Center in Bendum, Philippines from 6 to 10 June 2016.

I was missioned by Tom Benz (Superior of the Jesuit Community of Micronesia) to represent us all at this workshop, so I wish to share with you what took place there in the hope that our commitment to the implementation of Laudato si’ may strengthen and bear fruit in our various places and ministries within Micronesia and beyond.

JCAP President Mark Raper asked that we “Please come up with creative, practical suggestions on how we can, individually, and collectively, make more real, more concrete, more effective our Jesuit and JCAP priority of Reconciliation with Creation.”  He also wrote to us saying: “Global movements on the environment have pressed for more effective responses especially for the many who are poor and on the peripheries of society.  The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with its numerous targets and indicators, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)  to the Paris Agreement (COP21) are giving sharper focus to the priority areas for action.  And Laudato si’, while asking us to care for our common home, is providing us with a meaningful basis for reflecting within ourselves and on our lifestyles, and so moving us towards a personal transformation.”

Sharing Micronesia’s commitments to the Paris Agreement and how Laudato si’ is implemented in Jesuit institutions and apostolates. Photo credit: A Ignacio

Sharing Micronesia’s commitments to the Paris Agreement and how Laudato si’ is implemented in Jesuit institutions and apostolates. Photo credit: A Ignacio

The 30 workshop participants aged 15 to 69 (I being the eldest) from all over East Asia (Australia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, China, Timor Leste, Philippines, and USA) were brought by vans to the remote mountain village of Bendum in the Bukidnon Province of Mindanao where we were hosted by Pedro Walpole, SJ and his staff, along with the indigenous Pulangiyen tribe of that locale.

That first evening, Datu Nestor Menaling (chief of the village) and some elders welcomed us with a ritual ceremony involving a long speech, the ritual sacrifice of three chickens that were then cooked and served with rice for a shared meal.  All this was intended to bring harmony among the old spirits of the place and the new spirits we brought with us.  The Datu then gave each of us a brass wire bracelet – a kind of passport to Bendum to show we now belong.

Why Bendum?  I believe this venue was chosen by Pedro not so much because this is where he has been working for many years, but rather because it offered us a living example of what Pope Francis wrote in #10 of Laudato si’: “…how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.”  We lived very simply, ate local foods, had no access to Internet or phone service, so we were able to enjoy freedom from distractions to live in the moment surrounded by peaceful tranquility amidst the misty mountains and fields and forest of Bendum.

Each country represented at the workshop was asked to prepare a 15-minute report on what is happening with regard to the implementation of Laudato si’ in our various places, institutions and apostolates with some input from what our government commitments are to the Paris Agreement.  With the input provided to me from around the region, I was able to present a brief report.  With the exception of Pedro, most if not all the participants knew nothing about Micronesia, so our report was enlightening and informative and was well received with a number of persons expressing admiration at what is already being done in Micronesia and by Micronesia on the world stage.

An exercise we did which every Jesuit should be able to do is formulate his own personal “10 environmental commandments” or rather “10 commitments” for the coming year to help care for our common home and seek consciously how to live by them.  We want to make an effort and feel we are doing something but need to get going with workable steps – the small things in daily life we are already aware of and seek to deepen.  Hopefully, after one year of fulfilling those 10 commitments, some will have become habitual and continue to be a way of life and life-giving to the earth.  (Anyone who wants to know mine by way of example, just let me know.)  Parishes and schools can do the same as institutions with their own 10 commitments that can be revised yearly.

Some of the action recommendations that emerged during the JCAP workshop include:

  • Make available to your institution the UN’s 17 SDGs and use them to determine goals for the sustainability of your parish or school. Laudato si’ and the 17 SDGs fit like hand in glove and the SDGs are a good way of being updated on strategic topics and possible activities while staying connected with others who are taking action;
  • Become familiar with the INDCs of your country as a basis for your apostolate’s involvement and support;
  • Translate and/or summarize Laudato si’ and distribute to co-workers, groups, among others, for discussion and planning;
  • Contact other Jesuit institutions (parishes or schools or social service centers) to network with them on common interests regarding Laudato si’.
Dave with the JCAP ecological concerns map that participants updated and where current and future actions were identified. Photo credit: A Ignnacio

Dave with the JCAP ecological concerns map that participants updated and where current and future actions were identified. Photo credit: A Ignacio

The workshop was entitled “Reconciling with Creation.”  Certainly Bendum illustrates what that kind of reconciliation looks like – forests decimated by logging are now being reforested with the local villagers managing the ongoing progress; dried up streams not running with clear clean water now used to power a small hydroelectric plant for the village; school kids being taught skills for livelihood and ecology woven into the curriculum at all grade levels; farmers using natural methods rather than chemical pesticides are now reaping more abundant crops; caring for our common home is the normal way of life there.

Twice during the week while enjoying the quiet early morning mists rolling down from the mountain and across the field in front of our dorm, I witnessed a couple of teenaged boys carrying shovels walking through the misty field singing happily.  An iconic scene from Bendum I’ll always remember.

If you wish to get in touch with Dave, he can be reached at dandrussj(at)gmail.com.

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