HILTON HEAD ISLAND — Renowned artist and educator, Sister Mary Southard, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondolet, led a three-day mission June 1 to 4 on ecology and spirituality at St. Francis by the Sea Church recently.
During the mission, Sister Southard told nearly 130 participants from around the Lowcountry that she learned how to pray fervently “in the woods . . . on retreats.”
That experience resulted in a 15-year odyssey studying various world religions, cultures and traditions to understand the ramifications of science and modernity through the prism of Christian faith.
Asserting that the earth and its people have ignored the dangers of pollution and natural resource depletion, Sister Southard pointed out that humanity must acknowledge, grieve, and vow to change its ways to achieve true peace and justice.
She said that only when “ecological healing begins” can people hope to become true stewards of God’s creation.
Sister also explained how to harness the power of the “four wisdoms” that Father Thomas Berry identified to heal and save the earth.
In addition to the wisdom of science and of Christianity, the wisdom of indigenous peoples and woman’s wisdom can also provide guideposts to a more peaceful and sustainable world.
She said that indigenous people, for example, have always lived in communion and harmony with their surroundings.
She encouraged people to adopt this mindset before it’s too late saying people cannot continue to live “separated from each other or mother earth.”
Viewing woman’s wisdom as being inclusive rather than exclusive, she said that people should bear in mind that Jesus entered this world neither to devalue the low nor overvalue the high. She reminded her audience that Jesus’ life and ministry were ones of ultimate inclusiveness. And it is his model that we should strive to emulate.
“Just like the Paschal mystery,” Sister Southard said, “there is death and resurrection even in creation.”
She surmised that ultimately, earth’s suffering, like our suffering and that of Jesus Christ’s, should be seen as an “opportunity,” an invitation to bring forth “goodness out of evil and light out of darkness.”