Networking, becoming ecological guides: the Sisters’ project for the Common Home

‘Sowing Hope for the Planet’ is an initiative promoted by the UISG (the International Union of Superiors General) and associations connected with it, in order to make Laudato Sí a reality: sharing ideas, formation, and synergetic action aimed at curing a sick planet.

Observing all the events that are unfolding on an ‘overheated’ and asphyxiated planet – such as sudden changes in the weather, with record heat waves even in the winter months, droughts, floods, natural disasters, and loss of biodiversity, with consequences such as famine, and therefore refugees and displaced persons, economic and food insecurity globally – Sister Sheila Kinsey, FCJM, coordinator of the Sowing Hope for the Planet (SHFP) project, came to a compelling conclusion: “The time to act is now”.

Established in 2018, the aim of the project is not simply to gather information and try to assuage a constant disquiet felt by the Earth’s inhabitants at every latitude, “but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.” (LS 19).

As coordinator of the SHFP project, Sr Kinsey is committed both to focusing urgent attention on the critical needs of the planet, and to animating religious and all networks of people connected to them in various ways to give an active and concrete response to Pope Francis’ call for the protection of the environment. “We realised the urgency of the global crisis affecting our common home and felt that religious are called to be the first guides on the path to healing. We need to explore all the areas where we can help make a difference,” says Sr Kinsey.

She continues: “I have worked to strengthen networking strategies using distance and online teaching tools to encourage small group discussions through webinars and interactive workshops. In this way, women are rewarded for their efforts and receive new stimulation and challenges, as well as encouragement to do better and more in the spirit of Laudato Sí.”

Sister Kinsey continues to investigate all the ways in which religious women and their connections can help make a difference. Her work and passion are rooted in the leadership of Pope Francis, who in his encyclical Laudato Sí brought a rich ecological spirituality that Sr Kinsey describes as “clear, formative, inspiring and practical” and which, moreover, embraces all issues of social and environmental justice as integrated and interconnected.

“As religious women”, she comments, “before rolling up our sleeves, we looked inside ourselves and realised that we must witness the value of our mission. We must work together as a community, because this will be our strength. So, I am trying to facilitate community interaction by highlighting good practices among congregations, helping to guide the development of the necessary resources, and highlighting the work that has already been done.”

To help amplify this public witness to the work that religious men and women are already doing in their respective areas of expertise, Sister Kinsey tapped into the resources of the Laudato Sí Action Platform with the goal of uniting communities and congregations around the world.

“The Laudato Sí Action Platform is a formidable structure and a wonderful way to facilitate interconnection between all those who are sensitive to the needs of the earth and the rights of the poor”, Sister Kinsey explains. “It has helped us to engage in programming in a systematic way. We are organising a living, dynamic movement with a clear and collaborative message that evolves as we listen deeply to the cry of the earth and the poor, and find ever different ways to integrate our responses.”

In the spirit of synodality and solidarity, the SHFP is committed to linking grassroots needs with national and international efforts: by creating survey tools and interactive maps to study awareness-raising and direct action campaigns regarding the seven Laudato Sí goals; by engaging members to share their experience and responses to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor on the SHFP project website; by developing webinars to share experiences and network among members and by using conversation and dialogue for specific advocacy training programmes; and by sharing their combined knowledge and resources on the Laudato Sí Action Platform.

“There is a clear motivation for change, but the window we have is very small,” the project coordinator continues. “Our international congregations are aware of what is happening to our brothers and sisters around the world, and we don’t want to exclude anyone, but we need to know the place, the culture, the people and the specific needs well before we understand what the priorities are. In doing so, we give an answer that comes from within ourselves as people sharing a common destiny – ‘we are all in the same boat, no one is saved alone,’ as the Pope continually repeats – but also in terms of hope and instruments of God’s presence. “

Finally the sister pointes out: “With the Pope’s guidance and with all the ways we have to connect with others, it is possible to develop a project that integrates spirituality with practice, in order to concretise and actualise  Laudato Sí, in this text there are already all the answers, there is the road mapped out precisely in order to reverse course and save the planet.” (Matthew Saganski)


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