MONCKS CORNER—Mankind needs to change the way they see themselves in relationship to the Earth before it’s too late.
Not too late for the Earth, but too late for mankind.
That was the message delivered by Sister Paula Gonzalez at the Caring for Creation forum held at Mepkin Abbey on May 27.
According to scientific research, that civilization is at the beginning stages of a complete breakdown, she said.
“We are living beyond our ability for nature to provide,” Sister Paula said, “and nature bats last.”
Her presentation was made with a light touch and lots of humor, but the message was deadly serious.
She pointed not only to man-made disasters like the oil spill in the Gulf, but natural disasters that occur with increasing frequency and severity. She noted the exploding population and people dying of starvation.
“We can see what the future will be like if we don’t make radical changes,” she said. “We must make them or they will be made for us.”
The Sister of Charity of Cincinnati urged faith communities to look to the Gospel message of love for guidance. She said God’s people must love and care for the Earth, and each other to survive.
About 50 people attended the interfaith talk hosted by the Trappist monks, including a number of Catholic youth leaders.
Interesting Fact: Sister Paula converted a former chicken house into La Casa del Sol, the house of the sun. She shares the 1,200 square-foot super-insulated, passive-solar house with another religious sister. When temperatures dropped to zero one winter, the temperature in the house never fell below 50 degrees with no heat running. Her success earned her the nickname Solar Nun.
Charley Francis, a religion teacher at St. Francis Xavier High School in Sumter, said he wanted to gain ideas to share with his classes. He incorporates issues facing the Earth into lessons on morality and social justice, he said.
“They’re the ones going on now,” Francis said of the students. “They’re the future, and they have to take that wonder and reverence with them.”
Trappist Father Guerric Heckel dubbed Sister Paula an ecological evangelist after hearing her speak in 2009.
“I was touched by how well she could articulate the crisis of our planet Earth and even more impressed by her ability to show hope for the future,” Father Guerric said.
Several participants commented on how well Sister Paula balanced grief for all that has gone wrong on our planet with joy for what we still have and hope for the future.
Father Guerric said each person must find the impetus for change within their own spirituality. Look beyond what is good for you and do what is good for all, he said.
Sister Paula warned that mankind is at an Exodus moment, but said each person can take three steps to turn the tide in a more positive direction.
Contemplation—Understand the cyclical, interdependent relationship between all life. She said man is not the king of creation, but kin with it. “Without the earth, without water and vegetation, there is no human life,” she stressed.
Ascetic—Limit consumption and waste, and curb personal pollution. Sister Paula said people think this means living like a monk, but it’s just a matter of simplifying.
Prophetic—Share the message with the world. She knows this is hard because people don’t want to hear it. Look what happened to most of the prophets, she said, adding that so far she has escaped that fate.
The sister, who has a doctorate in biology, said she has been spreading the message for 40 years and she has seen positive steps. Still, many changes have been bandages when what is required is surgery.
She extols the extraordinary power each person has through the grace of God and urges everyone to take action now, before humanity misses nature’s deadline.