“Sowers of Prophetic Hope by Caring for Creation” — such was the theme for the second day of the UISG 2019 Plenary Assembly. After a brief period of recollection before the Plenary icon, the Superiors General prepared themselves to listen so as to ask: “What are we hearing?”
Sr Judette Gallares, a Religious of the Cenacle from the Philippines who is currently missioned in Macau, provided a framework for the care of creation within the prophetic biblical perspective. Her thought was framed within the context of the new creation which, she observed, both opens the bible in Genesis and closes the bible in the Book of Revelation. She reminded those listening that the biblical prophets were always obedient to God’s word and bore a message that was not theirs. “One thing is clear at the outset”, she said:
“prophetic hope is rooted in the prophetic experience of mysticism, which aligns the prophet with God’s plan and vision…. The prophet’s closeness to God enables him to see the entire creation—the universe, the planet and everything in it from God’s perspective”.
Those who embrace such a vocation today need to tell:
“the present to lament environmental destruction and evoke the memory of God’s dream for creation, raising consciousness of the global ecocide that threatens humanity and the entire planet in the here and now”.
Women religious, following the intuition of Jeremiah, have always found God’s presence among the “broken and dispossessed, the captured and conquered”, the “vulnerable and innocent”. Sr Judette continued insisting:
“Prophetic hope exists on the margins and is rooted in solidarity with the sufferings of those in the margins…. Caring for our planet is becoming an imperative in expressing our love of neighbor…. Loving our neighbors must include doing what we can to enable our planet to sustain the flourishing of our fellow human beings”.
In conclusion, Sr Judette connected the prophetic vocation of women religious to that of Jesus himself who was “deeply connected with everything that came into being as spoken by his Father”. Living in continuity with the prophets of old, women religious embrace lives that “bring wholeness and healing to our broken and vulnerable planet”. Inspired by St Paul’s words to the Romans, Sr Judette said that by groaning with all of creation that “we await the redeeming power of God’s love restoring the original goodness and beauty of all there is”.
The morning concluded with conversation among the sisters at their tables, quiet time before the Eucharist and the celebration of the liturgy presided over by Fr Stanley Lubungo, a Missionary of Africa.
In the afternoon, Sr Sheila Kinsey, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and Executive Co-Secretary of the Justice and Peace and Creation Commission of the UISG and USG, presented the results of the UISG Sowing Hope for the Planet Capaign. The campaign, launched by the UISG in June 2018, brings together “the richness and connections” of UISG member congregations, Sr Sheila said. It is rooted in the relational character of Laudato Si’ which encourages interdependence and “obliges us to think of one world with a common plan” (no. 164).
Sr Sheila presented the five campaign webinars that formed the foundation for involving women religious throughout the world. Eventually a web site was developed (www.sowinghopefortheplanet.org), a newsletter created, and a video demonstrating how congregations “are engaging in many important works” was realized. Besides networking with UISG member congregation, the campaign is also networked with the Global Catholic Climate Movement and with the Vatican Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.
Lastly, Sr Sheila presented plans for the future and made suggestions regarding how UISG member congregations can participate in the campaign:
“As international congregations we need to look at the ways we have been guilty of environmental destruction and disregard for these consequences to one another and especially to the poor. Sisters are present in countries where the lifestyle negatively impacts the rise in temperature, effecting climate change and where they are most affected by climate change. Our communities are both intimate with the cause and effect. With our personal commitment to one another, we are ideally positioned to respond compassionately in an integrated effort. As a community of Sisters living the Gospel, in solidarity with one another, we know that everything is interconnected, and we wish to live our religious life for the common good in our environment, our common home.”