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LEN Retreat — Saving the Planet Bit by Bit

Posted on October 1, 2016, by Loretto Community

By Cathy Hartrich

(Editor’s Note: Cathy Hartrich is a member of Loretto Circle, St. Louis, and serves as chairwoman of the theology department at Nerinx Hall High School.)

At right, Libby Comeaux and Nancy Wittwer assist attendees, including Sylvia Sedillo, at the LEN retreat at the Denver Loretto Center to maneuver through the registration process.
Photo by Ruth Routten

What an honor it was to celebrate Loretto Earth Network’s 25th anniversary with LEN’s founders and devotees alike in Denver Aug. 19–21. Alongside Loretto Community members and friends at this retreat were such notables as Fletcher Harper, founder of Green Faith, and Miriam Therese MacGillis, founder of Genesis Farm.

Was it paradoxical or God-incidence that the retreat took place in the exquisite, lush setting of the Loretto Center in the Havern School area in the foothills of the Rockies amidst conversations about Loretto property and the future?

Although I came as an observer, representing the newly-formed Loretto Circle at Nerinx Hall High School, I ended up fully engaged as a participant, very concerned about such big matters at stake. For this opportunity, I was most grateful.

Harper opened the retreat, providing a historical overview of the global environmental movement and the various ways political and faith leaders have been attempting to curb climate change. Examples provided included the Copenhagen 2009 initiative, “an utter failure with total inability to reach agreement,” campus movements, the People’s Climate March in New York City in 2014 and Bill McKibben’s work motivating many for change.

Most recently, Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, and the 2015 Paris Agreement seem to be hopeful and moving us in the right direction. Since the publication of Laudato Si’, other faith groups, including Muslims and Buddhists, have issued statements calling for the end of the fossil fuel era.

A recent Hindu declaration focuses on renewable energy resulting in 1,000 solar lamps given away: “Our dream is where every child can study at night.”

Aug. 20 LEN was immersed in the wisdom of MacGillis, via Skype, from Genesis Farm. (She typically refuses to fly to events to lessen her carbon footprint.) She called for a paradigm shift from the Western worldview that is “anthro-centric” to one that claims an ecozoic perspective, with the whole evolution of the universe in mind, recalling Thomas Berry’s work.

She claimed that this shift is incredibly difficult to make, particularly for persons raised in the traditional worldview that people are at the top of and not alongside all other creation that has evolved on our planet. “Our present worldview is inadequate and dysfunctional,” MacGillis said.

In particular, MacGillis spoke of the difficulty for those coming from a religious perspective (Judeo-Christian) that has laid the foundation of Western Civilization (a recent perspective but still the norm). She claimed we can’t have part of the vision without every aspect of the whole Earth’s evolution, 5 billion years old, being understood as essential to its being.

“Today, we have this ironic capacity to perceive nature in a way we’ve never been able to see it before …” and this perception provides us the “sacred knowledge” of wisdom and awareness.

At Genesis Farm this awareness- raising, through one-on-one campaigning amidst local farmers, has recently resulted in a radical liberation of the local watershed of GMO planted crops.

MacGillis’ model for environmental transformation has become contagious. With confidence, she urges all Religious to be inspired by this new awareness and impetus for change, to be a voice for life.

She indicated that the Loretto Community in its “heroic” protest of the Bluegrass Pipeline in Kentucky provided an exemplary model of such a voice.

At the retreat’s conclusion, LEN took the weekend’s challenges seriously by engaging in fruitful discussion about the future of Loretto divestment of land and the investment of ourselves in new practices such as sustainable retirement, vegetarianism and green burial.

Some closing quotes: “I am Earth.” “Be an earthworm, not an eggplant!” “Your Great Work is an alchemy — transmitting lead into gold.”

With these wisdom-nuggets in mind, may Loretto continue to care for the planet, saving it bit by bit.


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