Bathurst sisters launch ecological ministry
On December 8, 2007 the Mercy and Justice Centre in Bathurst made a transition to Rahamim Ecological Learning Community. Sisters of Mercy, friends and supporters of the Mercy and Justice Centre and new and interested supporters of the Rahamim Ecological Learning Community gathered at St Joseph’s Mount to ritualise the transition from the old to the new.
Photo: Sisters Patricia Powell RSM (left) and Patricia Linnane RSM (right).
Over the past 12 months, the Sisters of Mercy, Bathurst, have been evolving a new ministry with a single focus of right relationship with the earth. This new ministry will involve the whole of the property and heritage home at St Joseph’s Mount. It will incorporate the very important ministries that have been a part of the Mercy and Justice Centre as well as exploring what it means to live more sustainably on this earth. This ministry is one response to the call to ecological conversion from within the Church.
Sister Paula Smith RSM facilitated a sharing of the story of the journey to this point through a ritual walk beginning in the Mercy and Justice Centre with a reflection by Sister Pat Linnane RSM about the work and ministry that has been possible at the Mercy and Justice Centre for the past 13 years. Mrs Joy Booth from Greater Western Area Health made a presentation to Pat for her long years of dedication and service to this ministry to the underprivileged of our local area and the advocacy of the issues for Indigenous people and refugees.
After morning tea the gathering moved to the Mount Chapel where Sister Bernardine Evens RSM told the story of the transition period, and in particular the last 18 months where a working party of ten sisters followed by a committee of five explored and developed the details of what the new ministry would be about. A vote of thanks was made to those ten sisters: Kaye Cole, Bernie Evens, Josepha Fish, Pat Linnane, Patricia Nugent, Ann-Maree O’Beirne, Patricia Powell, Paula Smith, Mary Trainor and Janet Walker.
Those gathered were than asked to make the journey back to the conference room (previously the Mercy and Justice Centre) to hear about the new name Rahamim, a little about the logo and the vision for the new ministry. Sister Ann-Maree O’Beirne RSM explored some reflections around a Hebrew word for mercy – Rahamim – and its meanings in the Old Testament and some of its relative meanings in the New Testament and the implications for us in using this version as a name for the new ministry. She then shared her own reflections around her experience of God’s compassion and mercy and its expression in the creation of the new logo.
Sister Patricia Powell RSM, the Director of Ministry for Rahamim, followed by giving a snippit of a look at the big picture – a broad vision for this work and invited us to watch a short piece from a video. (A press release for the local newspaper is published below). Finally, Sister Gabriella Gresz RSM, Congregation Leader of Bathurst, spoke of launching a new ministry, a ministry that was one way of responding to the call to ecological conversion; a conversion that calls us all to make changes to our way of living; living simply in order that others may simply live.
The ritual was completed with a simple meal in the dining room, a fitting celebration for the 60 people who gathered to say goodbye to the old and welcome the new.
Report submitted by: Sister Ann-Maree O’Beirne RSM
PRESS RELEASE FROM SISTER PATRICIA POWELL RSM
About 60 people gathered at St Joseph’s Mount on the weekend (December 8) to acknowledge the work of Sister Pat Linnane at the Mercy and Justice Centre. For the past 12 years, Sister Pat has contributed to the local community by co-ordinating programmes for people suffering from depression, people working for the dole, and people serving community service orders.
The Mercy and Justice Centre has also supported Bathurst Aboriginal Reconciliation and the Refugee Support Group, as well as initiatives for peace and justice and the UN Millennium Goals. Many groups and organisations working for advocacy and mediation in the Bathurst region have enjoyed the hospitality, conference facilities and the beautiful natural surroundings of St Joseph’s Mount, home of the Sisters of Mercy for almost 100 years.
Saturday’s gathering marked a turning point for the Mercy and Justice Centre. Sisters of Mercy and Associates from as far away as Newcastle and Dubbo joined local people for a ceremony of transition, as the work of the Mercy and Justice Centre becomes part of a new undertaking by the Sisters of Mercy.
Responding to the urgent issues of global warming and climate change, the sisters are making St Joseph’s Mount available as an educational resource for learning more about sustainable living.
Director of the ecological learning community, Sister Patricia Powell said, “We are all on a steep learning curve in our efforts to understand what it means for human beings to relate differently to the natural environment. The big insight for our time is the realisation that everything in nature is in relationship with everything else, and the balance is very delicate.”
The Sisters of Mercy want to take that awareness into their ongoing support for people in the community. As educators, they want to learn more themselves, and participate in creating opportunities for ordinary people to share their own wisdom and the wisdom of experts.
“It’s a spiritual issue,” she said. “It’s about encouraging each other in our efforts to change our lifestyle and live more sustainably. We will give it a try and see what support there is in the local area for this kind of resource.”
The education and spirituality programme for 2008 is now available in Church and community locations around Bathurst. Members of the steering committee, Sisters Bernie Evens, Pat Linnane, Ann-Maree O’Beirne and Dr Paula Smith have spent the past 12 months negotiating for quality educational programmes and presenters to be brought to Bathurst next year.
The new initiative has a new name: Rahamim (pronounced Ra-ha-mim) a biblical word meaning mercy or womb-love. “It is the compassion of a mother for her child,” Sister Pat Linnane explained.
“That compassion, which underpins our work with people, now also needs to be directed to the earth.”
Sister Gabriella Gresz, Leader of the Sisters of Mercy, formally launched this first stage of the Rahamim Ecological Learning Community’s programme, which will focus primarily on water management and healthy soils.
Contact: Sister Patricia Powell RSM