On 24 May 2022, we celebrated the seventh anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. This seminal encyclical issued a clarion call to humanity to recognise and embrace the connection people have to the whole of creation. When we celebrate Laudato Si’ Week, we are invited to explore the truth that we must care not only for all of humanity, but also for the gift of the natural world.
This call to embrace the practice of ecological justice is a central focus of the Loreto Justice Network. In April, members of this network journeyed to Portland, where we prioritised visiting the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre in the Tyrendarra Indigenous Protected Area. The morning spent with Indigenous rangers Ben and Leshea was a privilege that provoked reflection on the lessons we can all learn from the sacred connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with Country, as well as an understanding of both the privilege and responsibility of caring for the land.
Our tour of Budj Bim included lessons about past sustainable food practices of the tribes of this area and meditation on the Indigenous understanding that when you look after the land, it will look after you. It also included reflection on the appalling massacres that are a reality in our shared history: in remembering, we honour the lives so unjustly taken. We are invited to remember the pain caused during National Reconciliation Week, from 27 May to 3 June.
National Reconciliation Week is also a time “for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.” (Reconciliation Australia) This year’s theme builds on that of 2021, which encouraged us all to take greater action toward reconciliation. The National Reconciliation Week 2022 theme, “Be Brave. Make Change”, challenges individuals, families, communities, organisations and governments to be brave and tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation so we can make change for the benefit of all Australians.
The Loreto Justice Network is committed to continuing to listen, learn and work for reconciliation, and those who travelled to Portland are grateful for the opportunity to have done so at Budj Bim. We invite all members of Loreto communities during National Reconciliation Week and each day to pray and act for reconciliation in Australia, listen to the stories of our Indigenous sisters and brothers, and learn the lessons of the indigenous relationship with the land. As Sherry Balcombe, coordinator of Aboriginal Catholic Ministry in Melbourne, says, “Aboriginal people have learnt how to care properly for Country, not just for survival, but knowing this is important to the Creator Spirit.” May we, too, learn this lesson and answer the call of Laudato Si’ to care for our common home.
You are invited to join the Loreto Justice Network and Mary Ward International Australia on 30 May (or by watching the recording) for a webinar on ecological justice. Click here for access to this event.
Author: Carolyn Young | Director, Mission & Identity, Loreto Ministries and Loreto Justice Network member
Images: Members of the Loreto Justice Network in Portland and Budj Bim