NEW DEVELOPMENTS FOR RAHAMIM
NEW SUSTAINABILITY EDUCATOR TAKES UP HER ROLE
The ministry of Rahamim Ecology Centre, Bathurst, places a significant emphasis on the work of education for the ministry to thrive. With this in mind, we were recently pleased to welcome Sally Neaves, an educator from Melbourne, to the role of Sustainability Educator. We asked her to share something of her background and plans for the role.
Describe a little of your childhood. What experiences led you to have a passion for sustainability education?
My parents had a farm on the banks of the Tambo River, overlooking the valley and the Gippsland hills. I spent my childhood exploring the cliffs of the Tambo, discovering pre-historic fossils, building tree-houses, and interacting with animals. My family was keenly involved in parish life and in the many projects of the Sisters who led forest retreats for young people in the area. In those formative years, I developed a sense that spirituality, ‘the sacred’, was something that could be experienced in the natural world. This sense has remained strong in me.
How would you describe your background and previous contribution as an educator?
I studied Secondary Education, Arts and Theology in Melbourne and eventually taught in International Schools in Asia. Over 10 years, I worked in Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia, developing interdisciplinary middle years curriculum in International Baccalaureate (IB) schools. The IB motto is “Education for a better world” which meant using best-practice pedagogy to resolve global issues. We found ways to make global issues relevant by observing their local manifestations. For example, in Korea we investigated the impact of polluted rice paddy canals around the school, in Vietnam we studied the effects of climate change on fruit production in the Mekong Delta, and in Cambodia we explored the local impact of Laos’ 17 proposed hydro-electricity dams. We also set up community gardens in each of these schools.
Why the move to Bathurst and Rahamim?
After my experiences overseas, I returned to Australia to begin my Masters in Theology and took up a position as Religious Education Coordinator in a large Catholic secondary school in Melbourne’s North-West. Seeking ways to integrate spirituality into the mix of inter-disciplinary curriculum, I participated in programs led by EarthSong, a Melbourne-based movement founded by religious congregations to explore new and ancient ways of imagining the human in the more-than-human world. These programs exposed me to the richness and beauty of ‘deep-time’, the Universe story and Earth’s processes, reminding me that the natural world is revelatory and sacred. I noticed this impacted the choices I made in daily life which moved more intentionally toward living sustainably (including simple living, bike-riding, renewable energy, etc). As a curriculum leader at my school, I developed these ideas for Year 9 students, integrating learning and retreats around the Universe story. There were few, if any, secondary schools around taking it up and I longed for these ideas to become mainstream in the education sector.
At that time the role at Rahamim was advertised – my dream job! The role includes leadership in curriculum design, including Religious Education, to re-think the role of the human in the more-than-human world. My arrival at Rahamim has coincided with the release of the papal encyclical Laudato Si which has given us incredible momentum from which to launch new programs. There is also an inspiring spirit among the people of Bathurst, particularly the pioneering Sisters of Mercy who have been on this path for a long time.
What are your plans for education and the future of Rahamim?
I want to pass on what I have received – an awakened sense of integral ecology which includes providing experiences of ecological spirituality, celebrating the Universe story, and demonstrating ways to respond to ecological crisis. We are currently working on curriculum in Religious Education and Geography with the Catholic Education Office, developing programs and retreats for adults around Laudato Si, hosting a film festival for students with the theme “The Dream of the Earth”, developing learning resources around a recent film about ground-breaking Bathurst Mercy ministries, and building relationships with local businesses and schools to get involved in our programs. Our programs will soon be available globally, live-streamed online.
I feel deeply proud to contribute to a Mercy ministry, strongly supported by the Sisters within an authentic, energetic, creative team. Together I hope we will inspire many to confront the challenges of our times and develop mutually life-giving relationships with the more-than-human world as the ministry evolves into the future.
RAHAMIM – A VISUAL STORY
Rahamim Ecology Centre has invested much time and effort over the past seven months building a visual story – a story that hasn’t been told in it’s entirety until now. This story was told via a historical documentary; a carefully researched, beautifully shot and expertly produced film telling the story of the Logan Brae villa. Each segment of the short film is expressed as a bridge to the next era and an important part of Bathurst’s history. It calls us to reflect on the place that is the heart of "Rahamim Ecology Centre".
For those visiting the building, entering one of Logan Brae’s main rooms or walking out onto the verandahs, the imagination goes to the skilled craftsmen whose task it was to create the Logan Brae home that sits at St Joseph’s Mount.
The builders would break the mould day after day. The plaster work and the iron work is the fruit of breaking the mould to release the unique piece within and add to the beauty of the overall creation. Breaking the mould would seem to be a fitting metaphor for Logan Brae – breaking the mould is an integral part of Logan Brae’s heritage. Hopefully its contagious nature will endure long into the future.
St Joseph’s Mount site has been at the cutting edge of many aspects of the work of the Sisters of Mercy and those who have dwelt and worked here. They have, in one way or another, broken the mould.
The Busby family; John, Harriot and their ten children broke the mould in commercial endeavor and in their support of the growth of Bathurst and the NSW colony towards Federation. They took social responsibility seriously. The Agriculture Experiment Farm broke the mould in combining agricultural practices, science and education – the progressive approaches backed up with research and experimentation was at the cutting edge of their day.
Finally and most importantly, the Sisters of Mercy have been, and continue to be, mould breakers as they seek to bring mercy and compassion to all. Since arriving in the Bathurst diocese 150 years ago next October, the Sisters have been mould breakers in all levels of education, health, welfare, and justice and community life. They express compassion in the 21st century and show it by reflecting Catherine’s work of Mercy today in new and exciting ways.
The current era of the Logan Brae House located at St Joseph’s Mount, is now housing and nurturing the Rahamim Ecology Centre. Rahamim Ecology Centre and its passionate stakeholders continue to look at what is happening around the world and responding to it via compassion of the whole universe. This is a new mould to be broken and the film that was shot and produced is just one tool that will be used to achieve this goal.
Messages to: Leah Moulden | Marketing and Events Manager |
Rahamim staff L-R: Wendy Cashen, Mary-Ann Cassanova, Leah Moulden, Gary Rush (Bathurst Mayor), Mary Miller, Sally Neaves, Tricia Favero