Bishops Conference’s spirituality day explores integral ecology

Fr Kimi Vunivesilevu (left) and Fr Stephen Hackett led the spirituality day

Staff from its General Secretariat have extended the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s commitment to its Laudato Si’ Action Plan with a spirituality day focused on “An Integral Ecology of the Heart”.

Fr Kimi Vunivesilevu MSC and fellow Missionary of the Sacred Heart priest Fr Stephen Hackett, the general secretary of the Bishops Conference, guided staff through a four-part program.

The day, at St Clement’s Monastery in Galong, started with Scripture passages and other literature to help explore the Heart of God, followed by the opportunity for silent personal reflection and sharing on those reflections.

A similar pattern was followed for explorations of the Heart of Jesus, the Heart of Creation and the Heart of Each Person.

Fr Vunivesilevu, parish priest at St John the Apostle Kippax in Canberra, said the day explored, as best it could in that time, the broad vision of Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’, which can sometimes be reduced to the environment.

“Pope Francis speaks about an integral ecology – the interconnectedness of everything, and especially the connection between people, creation and the Creator,” he said.

“The spirituality day was a chance for those present to immerse ourselves in that reality, which isn’t something always easily achieved in the busyness of life.

“We were also able to experience the beauty of God’s creation in country Australia, reflecting on God’s word and the inspired writings of others.”

In 2021, the Bishops Conference made a commitment to developing a Laudato Si’ Action Plan – believed to be the first episcopal conference in the world to do so.

The 2021-22 Social Justice Statement, Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor, was part of the Church’s initial engagement in the plan.

The Bishops Conference has since established a Laudato Si working party, made up of staff from the General Secretariat and led by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, chair of the Bishops Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service.

Fr Hackett, a member of that working group, said the spirituality day was another opportunity to invite Conference staff to contemplate what an integral ecology means.

He said the Bishops Conference’s premises in Canberra have undergone changes in recent years to better reflect care for creation, including the installation of solar panels, more efficient lighting and appliances, and the use of composting and worm farms.

“The bishops have invited Catholics and Church entities across the country to see what incremental and practical steps can be taken, as well as that conversion of the heart,” Fr Hackett said.

“It is important that we at the Bishops Conference are part of that national effort.”

The spirituality day was the first the Bishops Conference has hosted offsite.

For several years, four afternoons have been set aside each year to explore various aspects of the Church’s rich spiritual tradition, including liturgy, iconography and devotion to Mary.