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CELEBRATING LAUDATO SI WEEK 2022: Creation Walk
Laudato Si Week 2022 marked the seventh anniversary of Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical on Creation Care. To celebrate, Good Shepherd Convent Restful Waters, Singapore organised and registered “Creation Walk … Listening and Journeying Together” as one of the community events happening around the world.
May 22nd, the opening day of Laudato Si week, we came together to celebrate and give thanks in the outdoors, to listen and learn from Creation and one another. The venue for our walk was the Lorong Halus Wetland, formerly a sewage disposal centre and landfill facility now transformed into a patch of green punctuated by tranquil bodies of water. It serves as a habitat for numerous wildlife and birds. There is the rich biodiversity, flora and fauna that thrive at the wetland. Beyond the wetland, we crossed over to Coney Island, with its different habitats such as mangrove swamps, coastal forests and woodlands.
With the aim of ecological conversion, we planned for the Creation Walk to encompass prayer, reflection and personal sharing. To rediscover and rekindle in our hearts our love for nature … to be one with nature … to see God’s loving hand in all of creation and to be in relationship with all life.
We began with a brief introduction of why the walk was organised to take place on May 22nd (it being the opening day of the Laudato Si Week 2022) and what made us select the wetland as our venue for our first Creation Walk. I was surprised that some participants were unaware and have not heard of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si. This made me conscious that there must be many others who have not heard about it too. A new yearning is stirring in my heart – we must go out to share and inform others so that they too will hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. Those who are least responsible for the crisis are the most adversely affected.
Along the walk we came across a variety of plants, some edible, some with medicinal properties. I am grateful that we had participants from Vietnam (Sr Francesca) and Myanmar (Sandar). They, together with Sr Lucy were able to identify and educate us on the health benefits of some plants and how it is used. Such information made the walk even more interesting and engaging. God has provided us with so much for our sustenance, but we have taken it so much for granted. If we do not start protecting what has been given, it will be too late when it is all gone.
I believe God chose the participants for this walk, how well we complimented each other. Each with different talents that we could share with one another. Some were knowledgeable about the plants; some were so attuned to nature that they could spot even the snake camouflaged among the leaves of the branch and the monitor lizard relaxing in the water. My reflection at this point was that God provides. Even in the wild, these plants thrived. The ants, birds, bees, butterflies, caterpillars, dragonflies, monitor lizard, monkey, snake and sandflies we encountered seemed happy in their own habitat – dancing, pollinating, feeding or just lazing in the sun. The plants and animals can surely survive well without us, but sadly, it is us humans who have been negligent and have destroyed much of their natural habitat in the name of development and economic growth.
Having walked a distance, we found ourselves a nice spot, right in the centre – with the nature reserve on one side and a high-rise housing development on the other. We sat in this sacred space, stilled, and quietened ourselves – I shared about how climate change had affected the lives of so many people e.g., many lives lost, many displaced and made homeless when Super Typhoon Haiyan (2013) hit the Philippines. Farmers whose crops (after months and months of arduous work) were wiped out leaving them with no income. Holding them all in our hearts, we prayed the Laudato Si prayer and read the Gospel of the day. Prayer was led by Sr Lucy – with an introduction, reflection on the Gospel and an invitation to participants to share their experience from the morning’s walk. It was enlightening at how nature could teach us so much. One participant noticed the many potholes along the dirt track, and she associated those with the potholes in her life. It was a beautiful honest sharing and we felt that it had brought about a sense of awareness, a shift in consciousness and we felt she has embarked on her journey of transformation.
Symbolically, we broke bread and shared it among ourselves. It was a spiritual experience for all. What started as a morning walk close to nature, had brought about a sense of awareness of Laudato Si, a realisation of the urgent need for each one to do our part to care for the earth and all of creation, the many plants which God has provided for us – for sustenance, as medicine etc., the beauty of the flowers and the magnificence of the trees. So much to see and learn. It was a time spent to get in touch with ourselves, our senses and most of all, to feel close to nature and to experience God’s love and God’s hand in all of Creation.
“Just Love” (St Mary Euphrasia), indeed, if we live by this value to Just Love, we will not only love our fellow human beings, but all creatures big and small – all of God’s Creation. If we “just love”, we will be more conscious of the need to care and automatically we will do what is right and we will not destroy what God has entrusted to us and our future generations.
“We human beings are not only the beneficiaries but also the stewards of other creatures. Thanks to our bodies, God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement. Let us not leave in our wake a swath of destruction and death which will affect our own lives and those of future generations.”
(Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, no. 215)
The Creation Walk on May 22nd is just the beginning… the beginning of a new journey towards self-awareness and ongoing personal ecological conversion. May our hearts and eyes be open to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.
Through photographs taken on our walk, we share with you some thoughts and reflections.
“The land is like my body, mind and spirit. God is my creator; God transforms my life from “dump” to “beauty”. The “dump” are negative words dumped on me – you are dark, you are short, you are slow, you are not as beautiful, you are not loveable. Similarly, I could be doing the same, “dumping” negative words onto others and forming negative thoughts in my mind.
This morning, I see how beautiful the dump site has been transformed. With the grace of God, I have decided to begin my transformation, to change my perception of life, to be more positive – that I may see myself and others from a positive perspective.” ZT
“As we walked the path, I noticed many potholes and I thought of the many potholes in my life. The setbacks at work, difficult relationships, struggles with study, etc. Many times I wished my life to be without these potholes. I stopped, stood and looked at one pothole, my reflection staring back at me, suddenly an orange butterfly appeared, dancing around me. I felt it was telling me that God is with me and God has been with me through all the potholes in my life. The potholes are for my personal growth. If I keep focussing on the potholes, I will miss the many beautiful experiences in my life. Look up and see all that is around me. I am surrounded by so much beauty. I am one with nature, I am a creation of God. Stop, listen and learn from creation, walk leisurely and breathe in the fresh air, feel and rejuvenate the tired body. Appreciate the gifts God has bestowed on me. I am Me and I am what I am.” Toi