Little Sisters and Neighbors in Ireland, Caring for the Environment

Bernie Donavan LSA

A central concept of Laudato Si is ‘integral ecology,’ which sees everything as interconnected.  The Little Sisters and neighbors are involved in an environmental project in Ballymun, Dublin.  It began with the Ballymun Tidy Towns Volunteer Group, concentrating on litter picking and planting and maintaining flowers to support the ecosystem.   Little Sisters, along with local people and a number of returned Missionary Sisters (from South Korea, Nigeria, and the UK), committed themselves to this work.  Working in the streets with others enabled them to “hear the cries of the poor” by listening to those they met.  Little by little, the group has been joined by women and men from many countries who have come to Ireland seeking International Protection.  While in this ‘Limbo’ type of existence, they are not permitted to take up paid employment, so they join a band of volunteers to help care for the local environment.  Their participation brings awareness of their displacement from their homes and countries (in some instances, for survival due to environmental degradation). It can also help them practice a new language.  This whole development of caring for others and for ‘Earth our common home’ has become a central part of our mission.

An issue that has grown out of this involvement is addressing the proliferation of domestic waste.  This question inspired some leaders in the group to hold practical workshops on waste reduction, correct waste disposal, and recycling of cans, bottles, and plastics.

An ongoing feature of caring for our ‘common home’ is collecting aluminum cans and plastic bottles for recycling.  Throughout the months of COVID-19 lockdowns, our churches and other services were closed.  So, from the payment generated by the recycled materials, our group donated this money to the local church, enabling the installation of a webcam so that from then onwards, the community could connect online for different programs.  It continues to help people who are frail and house-bound to keep connected with the worshipping community.  This also created a greater unity in the local community – a simple and profound way of ‘meeting’ each other.  At this stage, the project has grown to about sixty participants from local families and individuals.

We have also organized several events in the parish hall and the three churches:

  • We viewed the film ‘The Letter’ – (A message for our earth: Pope Francis et al.)
  • Weekly workshops reflecting on passages of Laudato Si,
  • Our members gave talks about caring for ‘our common home.’

We are committed to taking this focus on Creation-centered Spirituality to another level by becoming a member of Eco-Congregation Ireland.

“Eco Congregation’s vision is to see churches of all denominations throughout Ireland celebrate the gift of God’s creation, recognize the inter-dependence of all creation, and care for it in their lives and through members’ lifestyles.”

A simple example of how our small LSA Community in Ballymun is beginning to live this vision is through the help of John, our neighbor and former volunteer aid worker in Africa and Asia.  He is assisting us with planting fruit trees and flowers that will support all the essential species for the good functioning of ecosystems (LS 34).  Additionally, we use harvested rainwater instead of the expensive clean water supply.

We have plans for ongoing environmental education through reflections on Laudato Si coupled with practical workshops on basic waste reduction, disposal, and recycling.

Bernie Donavan LSA