Concluding remarks of Bishop Fintan Monahan at a Conference on Laudato Si’, Spreading the Word and formal Launch of Laudato Si’ – an Irish Response, Essays on the Pope’s Letter on the Environment, Edited by Fr. Seán McDonagh, SSC
Cloughjordan Saturday 18th of November 2017
Conference organised in partnership between Cloughjordan EcoVillage, Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly and Diocese of Killaloe
For over the past 40 years Fr Seán McDonagh, a native of Killaloe Diocese & the town of Nenagh has been to the forefront in shaping opinion on environmental issues & the morality & spirituality of caring for the earth.
I first met Seán about 20 years ago in the Columban house of Lahore in Pakistan where he was giving a series of talks, seminars & lectures. On a number of occasions I was hugely impressed with inputs he gave in Knock & the Newman Institute in Ballina along with reading a number of his books & articles.
His literary output has been amazingly prolific with publications on Caring for the Earth, The supply & availability of Water, The Ethics of Nuclear Power, The Greening of the Church, Care for our common home in Laudato Si’ along with many articles on similar topics.
In the midst of all the research & commitments in these areas he has still remained faithful & loyal to his vocation as a Columban priest & loves to return to his native Nenagh & helps out at weekends whenever the opportunity arises, something that is greatly appreciated.
Following the great tradition of St Columban & so many of the Celtic & Irish saints he has a profound sense of the presence of God in the beautiful world that we inhabit. As Seán reminded us in his opening remarks from the words of his patron “If you want to know God, learn about the natural world”.
Why an Irish Response?
Today we gather to launch a collection of 11 articles on the encyclical of Pope Francis,Laudato Si,An Irish Response. So why an Irish Response? Most of the expert contributors are of Irish extraction & it continues the great tradition of many Irish people in caring for the earth from the folklore and tradition of St Patrick, St Bridget & Colmcille & indeed much further back & since.
However, while we might be inclined to pat ourselves on the back and be somewhat smug about our proud history in this area Mary Robinson gave a stark warning at the original launch of this book that we in Ireland are, at this present time no saints in this arena. She warns: “Unfortunately, Ireland is finding it very difficult to lower greenhouse gas emissions in the area of transport and agriculture. We are discussing and discussing when what is needed is action.”
Genuine conversion and real change in this area starts not so much with the Irish Government or with trying to convert the President of the United States, but with ourselves! In paragraph 211 of Laudato Si’ Pope Francis gives us a whole series of practical pointers of where we might start in our own lives. Lorna Gold in her presentation points out to us that Laudato Si poses more questions than it answers. It invites us into dialogue. Till Wyers in his talk reminded us that what is needed is a culturan transformation. We heard from the audience of schemes like the Eco Parish Awards, GAP, Global Action Plan and other practical ways of helping us to achieve in this area.
Overview of chapters
In looking at the outline & overview of the book we launch today: The religious & spiritual overview of Seán McDonagh & Donal Dorr in the introductory & 9th chapters are echoed by Dermot Lane & John Feehan in chapters 2 & 3. Michael Punch, in chapter 4 looks at the urban implications for what could be looked at as an otherwise a rural issue. Lorna Gold, Brigid Reynolds, Seán Healy & Peadar Kirby analyze some of the justice & political implications of the encyclical in chapters 5,6 & 7 & John Sweeney in chapter 8 gives a most interesting overview of the efforts of the international community to take this important issue seriously & ensure concrete action is taken to ensure the natural world is protected & cared for.
Laudato Si in Kenya
The encyclical Laudato Siwas spoken about again & again on a Trócaire trip to Kenya that I had the privilege of going on last week. We just returned home yesterday, after witnessing so many outstanding and worthwhile life-saving projects there. In the presentations we had in Kenya & in the experience of what we saw among the communities visited the material that is the content of both Laudato Si’ & this volume we launch today came up again & again – pollution & climate change, global warming being driven by human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels, the issue of the availability of clean water, the empowerment of women, urbanization, carbon emissions, the loss of biodiversity, global inequality, the link between the poor & the neglect of the earth.
Example in Turkana
On one day in a remote village in Turkana the community there gave an em-passioned account of how Climate change has practically ruined their lives. The last few years has brought drought after drought, they have no water. Their cattle & goats have perished. Only for the intervention of Trócaire & the emergency Summer collection not one of them would be alive today. It was heart-breaking to listen to their stories & hear their continued pleas for help! They put the blame totally on Climate Change & all that has led to that for destroying their lives. It was harrowing to listen to them in their pain, suffering & vulnerability. The community were so thankful to Trócaire and the Irish people for the life-saving intervention and at the same time very angry at the destructive power of climate change and global warming.
Layout – easy headings
The book we launch today is a most handsome volume, beautifully presented & laid out in organized headings that are most useful for ease of reference. Well done & congratulations to Veritas for all that. Indeed Veritas are always so supportive for the many religious publications that arise. Welcome to Pam McLoughlin of Veritas who is here with us today.
Laudato Si – a great resource!
This publication will be a most useful resource, not only for the general reader, serious about the environment but also teachers & chaplains across the 3 levels of education along with Adult Ed groups & pastoral councils. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it myself in between times last week on the plane, at airports & during the few spare moments. Last year both Killaloe & Cashel & Emly promoted the issues of Laudato Si’ for the Sacrament of Confirmation & that was very well received. It is deeply heartening to see that the young people of the Diocese have a passion & hunger for the promotion of justice & love & care of the earth. Recently in Lorrha parish a parish and diocesan event was organised on the theme of the Spirituality of Laudato Si and the link with the ancient historical past of many of the heritage and religious ruins in the area.
A sincere word of appreciation & well done to Peadar Kirby of Cloughjordan eco village for being the inspiration for this seminar & thereby the local launch of this book. Thanks to the Speakers Seán McDonagh, Lorna Gold of Trócaire, Sr. Colletter Kane of the Táirseach centre, Till Weyers from the federation of German scientists and David who facilitated and interesting and stimulating discussion.
Mary Robinson Launch
I know the book has already been launched elsewhere & in Dublin was launched by Mary Robinson who has years of distinguished service in this area. She presented a copy of the book to Pope Francis at a meeting along with The Elders in Santa Marta soon after. The Elders are a group of global leaders who work together for peace and human rights. They include former UN Secretary Generals, Ban Ki-moon and Kofi Annan. The book happened to be launched in TCD over the very same weekend that the Citizens Assembly were discussing climate change in their session.
It is my joy & privilege to declare this book launched in the diocese of Killaloe & happy reading to all who make the very worthwhile investment in purchasing it!
Congratulations to Seán on his great work.
In advance of the Columban centenary, just around the corner we congratulate Fr Seán on the monumental he has done in this area, the lifetime of dedication to caring for the environment & pray an abundance of blessings on him for much more great work in this area & as a dedicated follower of St Columban.