The challenges of ecology for mission and community life, Province of France

The challenges of ecology for mission and community life, Province of France

Louis Lorieux, SJ

Each year after Christmas day, the Jesuits of the French Province  meet at Le Châtelard, near Lyon, France to discuss a particular topic of interest. This gathering also includes Jesuits from other Provinces such as Southern Belgium and Luxembourg, Africa or South America, and also some lay friends of the Society. This year’s topic was Ecology: Challenges for the mission and community life.

“Over time, it goes, everything goes…” (Avec le temps, va, tout s’en va), these words from the French poet Léo Ferré seem to leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Life and memories pass, and even the weather seem to be misaligned. Reassuringly, we found that everything was in order: storms in Bretagne, fog in Paris, and almost sunny at Châtelard!

Photo credit: Jérôme Gué, SJ

The topic was initially confusing for some people, but the different speakers identified and tackled the central challenges that ecology posed. First, Jean-Bernard Baudin, professor of organic chemistry and chemical biology at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris shared a discussion on the clear and precise scientific approach. A young couple, Arthur and Gwendoline Darde and Sister Mary Magdalene, a Dominican sister from Taulignan, followed with a testimony to their friendly and solid commitment to the world and to creation. The presentations were all about creation. Morning prayers also helped contemplate the work of God and the cries of astonishment and admiration from the Psalms fed the thanksgiving for all the benefits received, including the joy experienced at the closing feast.

There was also an opportunity to get involved through some practical workshops, such as baking homemade bread, contemplating the wildlife at Châtelard, and visiting a building with zero carbon emissions. To understand all of this, it was found helpful to read some passages from Scripture and discovering ongoing works of the Province such as Études  and the Centre de Recherche et d’Action Sociales or CERAS.

Photo credit: Jérôme Gué, SJ

There gradually emerged a greater awareness of the magnitude of the topic and its consequences, without appealing to an ecological imposition. It is clearly a matter of giving it time. We receive what God gives to us as well as an inheritance from the past.

The question is, what are we going to leave behind for future generations and for God? “I hope that tomorrow, I can look into my children’s eyes, knowing today the risks that surround us,” said Gwendoline. The “movement from anticipation to foresight” as pointed out by one of the participants, is a sentiment that facilitated connectivity among generations.

This sentiment linked us to a reminder from José Ignacio García, SJ of the initiatives undertaken by the Society as an international body, whether these are documents or specific actions developed by the various Provinces, and call for collaboration and inputs from all.

There are three lessons learnt from the meeting at Châtelard:

  1. First, there is a call for greater coherence in our lives, where our principles guide the choices we make in order to maintain this fragile earth which we live in and love to contemplate.
  2. Secondly, our Ignatian tradition can help us to move forward, to make decisions in these times of uncertainty, and to support others who wish to follow this path through discernment.
  3. Finally, like all Christians, we cannot yield to the temptations of the prophets of doom, but instead we must nourish the hope that drives us.

It is no longer sufficient simply to be the stewards of creation. We must become creation’s guardians and also its watchmen of hope.

For a related story, please go to Ecojesuit.

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