The Green Window

Part 26 – December 2017

Glow to Him Wood And Tree: An Ecological Reflection for Advent

Mary Rowell, CSJ on behalf of the Federation Ecology Committee

A powerful image of the presence of God in the natural world is found in the Carmina Gadelica, a beautiful compendium of Gaelic prayers and poems collected from around the Hebridean Islands between 1860-1909 by folklorist, Alexander Carmichael.

In the Christmas carol found in that text, “The Nativity” we read:

This night is the long night, Glowed to Him wood and tree, Glowed to Him mount and sea, Glowed to Him land and plain, When that His foot was come to Earth.

The carol speaks of the light of Christ’s birth penetrating, being received by and reflected in all of God’s creation. Soon, we will again light the candles of Advent as we prepare our hearts to receive the light of Christ at Christmas.

This year, we wait for the “long night” of Christmas in a seemingly “long night” in our world. Today, our experience is of a “night of darkness”; a night filled with violent conflicts worldwide and the threat of nuclear annihilation, of the sufferings of people fleeing persecution, torture and starvation, a night of ecological degradation,
of chaotic weather patterns and climate change. It is a night in which the “cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor” is heard calling out to us, with urgency, as one cry! We face a night where the possibility of the light being extinguished forever seems real in ways not previously experienced in our world.

And yet … as Christians familiar with mystical references to “the dark night” we find in our reality of faith the light of Christ at the heart of all things. In this is hope. So as we light our candles this Advent we are reminded that with Christ we are called to be “God’s light in our world.” Advent invites us once again to reflect upon the confluence of the realities of our time and the hope of Christian commitment and that of our religious profession. The silent, enveloping waiting in the long night calls us ever to the primacy of prayer in and for the world. It invites us to prepare in contemplative movement the prayer-filled actions that will make a difference – in the “already but not yet” birthing of Christ in our world. Advent offers us a sacred pause, to again search our hearts for practical responses that will contribute to the integrity of God’s creation, healing relation- ships in a spirit of reconciliation and that will respond with true commitment to those who are poor and marginalized. In the long night “when all creation groans” (Romans, 8:22) we again hear a call to new beginnings in the face of the challenges of our times – that as Christmas dawns our hearts, our lives, all of creation will indeed “glow where His foot was” and will in us once again, “come to Earth.”

Part 25 – September 2017

Background Setting for Conversations that Matter

Nancy Wales, CSK on behalf of the Federation Ecology Committee

As we know, the various regional hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have concluded and the Royal Commission has released its final report. This comprehensive report offered its potentially impactful and transformative recommendations as 94 Calls to Acton. The Calls to Acton provided “a general handbook on how to achieve reconciliation within Canada.” Lenard Monkman, CBC NEWS

No doubt, our exposure to Survivors’ stories opens our minds and softens our hearts to the unimaginable and horrendous experience of many of the Residential School attendees. How-ever, coming to grips with the ongoing events of our shared Canadian history will require much more than just learning about the legacy of residential schools.

Owning our past calls us to create a shared future, which is “a multi-faceted process that restores lands, economic self-sufficiency, and political jurisdiction to First Nations and develops a respectful and just relationship between First Nations and Canada.”  Centre for First Nations Governance

It is apparent that the task ahead is monumental both in size and significance. However, it’s important to keep in mind the words of Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

An Important Step: Face to Face Conversations

Reflecting on what reconciliation means to me, and us, collectively, it seemed important to have a conversation with 2, local respected elders. Sister Margo and I met Dan and Mary Lou Smoke while working on a local T and R initiative.

In our visit with them, in their home, Sister Margo and I felt their hospitality and enjoyed Kana’talako Indian Cookies and lemonade. I came away from our time together knowing a little more of their personal journey of discovering their cultural roots with its rich ceremonies and traditional wisdom.

Dan is encouraged that following the process of the Royal Commission and the release of its Calls to Acton there has been an evident surge in interest among Canadians to become more familiar with the history, diversity, and richness of First Nations peoples.

It is significant to him that Western University’s Senate, among other bodies, decided to include the naming of traditional territorial lands on which the group gathers for events. I came away realizing the importance of this simple act as a way to include, recognize, and honour our Indigenous Peoples.

However, Dan laments that 100+ natve communites remain without access to clean drinking water.

Furthermore, in neighbouring Delaware, ON plans are underway to build a new waste water treatment plant which raises concerns for him about the future water quality from the Thames River. This is the source of drinking water for London’s 3 neighbouring reserves, Thames First Nation, Oneida Nation, and Munsee-Delaware Nation.

Does this water crisis of which Dan spoke not raise our group conscience for the need for us to contact our local government representatives to apply public pressure to initiate concrete steps to rectify the intolerable situation faced by boil water communities? Our founding charism of unity and reconciliation urges us to assume our personal responsibility in bringing about the necessary healing of the rupture in relationships between individuals of First Nations or Settlers heritage.

Face to face conversations with our First Nations sisters and brothers offer us opportunities to see our mutual history and shared future from new perspectives.

Dan and Mary Lou encouraged us to visit nearby reserves assuring us that we would be most welcomed. Many communities have gift shops and restaurants where we could begin our conversations. Let us embrace Dan and Mary Lou’s invitation and continue to walk toward reconciliation and right relationships.

Part 24 – April 2017

“Concern for Our Fine Feathered Friends:  To Bee or Not to Be”

Kathleen O’Keefe CSJ on behalf of the Ecology Committee 

“Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures, are dependent on one another” (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, #42).

As E.O. Wilson puts it, humans have “an innate affinity with nature.”  We are to interact with the natural world with a profound sense of wonder and awe, along with deep appreciation to our Creator God.  In creation, there is “an order and a dynamism that human beings have no right to ignore” (L.S., #221).  “We cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention to the consequences of such interference in other areas …” (L.S., #130-131).

In my research, I learned that there is a need to be able to assess the state of the environment and to use sensitive indicators to do so.  Both birds and bees act as “the canary in the coal mine” in terrestrial ecosystems.  Bird and bee monitoring have become essential parts of our adaptation to our changing global circumstances.

“The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all” (L.S., #23).

 On the David Suzuki Foundation website, I read that living beings, including birds and bees, “are moving, adapting and in some cases dying as a direct or indirect result of environmental shifts associated with our changing climate — disrupting intricate interactions among species with profound implications for the natural systems on which humans depend.”

The Nature Canada website stated that “climate change can alter distribution, abundance, behavior and genetic composition of birds” and, can affect the “timing of events like migration or breeding.”  Habitat loss and alien invasive species make matters worse for birds.  Extinction risks increase as a mismatch of birds and their environment takes place.

“How many songbirds would there be without the berries that result from pollination by bees?”  Laurence Packer’s book, “Keeping the Bees” sheds light on this important topic.  Climate change is affecting pollination by disrupting the synchronized timing at which bees pollinate.  Flowers are blooming earlier in the growing season due to rising temperatures, before many bees have a chance at pollinating the plants.  Thus, when bees finally begin pollination there is limited nectar available and competition for these valuable resources becomes more intense.

A report from Health Canada reveals that the bee population is in real danger due to the use of “new highly toxic systemic pesticides in agriculture.”  We need bees for their role in pollinating many food crops on which we depend.  David Suzuki declares, “bees are responsible for about one third of our food supply, and the consequences of not taking action to protect them are frightening.”

Pope Francis challenges each person alive today with these words: “Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is first and foremost up to us” (L.S., #160).  He urges us to become a part of the “bold cultural revolution.”

 Suggested Resource: 

“On care for our common home:  A dialogue guide for Laudato Si’’ Written by Janet Sommerville and William F. Ryan SJ with Anne O’Brien GSIC and Anne-Marie Jackson.  Ottawa:  St. Joseph Communications, 2016.

Part 23 – December 2016


Mary Rowell CSJ on behalf of the Ecology Committee

The season of Winter calls us to quiet waiting on life hidden in the dark earth. The liturgical season of Advent similarly invites stillness as we await the re- birth of Christ in our hearts and world; Christ ever-present and yet to come.

The Biblical Tradition echoes the patterns of Earth. Wendell Berry says the Tradition “elevates just stopping above physiological necessity, makes it a requirement, an observance of the greatest dignity and mystery”. It is called, Sabbath. Sabbath is an essential part of the evolutionary and spiritual process. It is a time set aside to honour creation according to the very patterns of creation. We humans must make a choice. Berry asks, “Will we choose to participate by working in accordance with the world’s originating principles, in recognition of its inherent goodness and its maker’s approval of it, in gratitude for our membership in it, or will we participate by destroying it in accordance with our always tottering, never-resting self-justifications and selfish desires?”

These are strong words and yet what a beautiful reflection for living winter and for entering fully into the season of Advent this year.  Earth and Tradition call us into a time of rest and reflection – a time of joy. In his beautiful book, “Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight”, Norman Wirzba says, “Just as God’s Shabbat completes the creation of the Universe – by demonstrating that the proper response to the gifts of life is celebration and delight – so too should our Sabbaths be the culmination of habits and days that express gratitude for a joy in the manifold blessings of God.”

Without a sense and practice of Sabbath how easy it is to forget the gifts of God and to enter into restless, joyless and destructive patterns of being. The personal, social and ecological costs of forgetting Sabbath, Norman Wizba maintains are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. They include stressful living to the point of breaking, a loss of meaningful relationship, a lack of peace, the destruction of Earth and its accompanying rise in human poverty and suffering.

So we are invited to reclaim a sense and practice of Sabbath. Winter and Advent, our waiting times, provide the best opportunities by calling us to rest in the rhythms of life. We are gently challenged to remember who we are and who we are called to be. Like plants that will yield fruit in the Spring only if they lie dormant in Winter we are invited to a fallow season. Wayne Muller writes of this most beautifully; “We must have a period in which we lie fallow and restore our souls. In Sabbath time we remember to celebrate what is beautiful and sacred; we light candles, sing songs, tell stories, eat, nap, love. It is a time to let our work, our lands, our animals lie fallow, to be nourished and refreshed. Within this sanctuary, we become available to the insights and blessings of deep mindfulness that arise only in stillness and time. When we act from a place of deep rest, we are more capable of cultivating what the Buddhists call right understanding, right action and right effort.” May this Winter, this Advent be for us such a contemplative time; a time for God, a time for Earth, a time for one another, a time for gratitude that when Christmas comes we can once again birth Christ in the World in peace and joy. Earth teach us the way!

Part 22 – September 2016

A Window on Hope – Priscilla Solomon, CSJ on behalf of the Ecology Committee


The Green Window symbolizes the opportunity to look beyond our present situation and see the horizon, perhaps to imagine a new horizon. Today we need horizons of hope and sustainability. I needn’t describe the present reality of excessive carbon consumption and climate change. Nor do we need a description of the desperate situation that many Indigenous Peoples in this land face. The need for reconciliation emotionally, spiritually, politically, socially and economically is very evident. So also is the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and at least 94 ways or actions to accomplish this, as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.


There are instances of hope – of new horizons. On Sept 22, Thessalon First Nation welcomes the public to tour their Bio Centre. This is how it is described in the media advisory.  “Thessalon First Nation acquired the tree surgery in 2000, which was previously owned by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Today, the Bio Centre has the capacity to produce elite plants and trees using cutting edge technologies and can house several agricultural ventures simultaneously. Some modern equipment and facilities include, a 6000 square foot refrigeration building, 17 climate controlled greenhouses, 100 acres of arable fields, access to organically certified facilities, and an on-site biological lab….”   The tour was offered to Thessalon FN members, potential partners, investors, funders and vendors. When I spoke to Nadine Roach she said the “Thessalon First Nation” is already working with such groups as “Sustainable Forest License Holders,” “Corridors for Life” and the “50 Million Tree program.”


The Centre provides economic resources to the community, including employment. It also provides Thessalon FN a way to be a leader in sustainable development, thus meeting their traditional value of care for the land and all its inhabitants. They work with organizations that also have the desire to protect the earth, the water and the plant and animal life it sustains.


Another example is the Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek (BZA) First Nation who are developing two run-of-river hydro projects on the Namewaminikan River in partnership with AXOR Group and two other Lake Nipigon First Nation communities (The AXOR Group specializes in the generation of renewable energy and green energy in Canada and across the world). The reserve is also involved in commercial fishing, forest harvesting and the construction business. Ray Nobis, a community spokesperson says the community of about 340 on-reserve band members has its own forest licence permit and has “laid out a partnership with Taranis [Contracting Group] for our construction.” Nobis also relates how they harvest lumber every year and have a strong silviculture program in place to nurture new trees for planting and sustainability.


These inspirational projects are but two of numerous First Nations initiatives for creating new hope, new horizons and a better future. Traditional wisdom bringing healing for our Mother Earth and her peoples.


Useful Websites:  biinjitiwaabik-zaaging-anishinaabek/

Part 21:  April 2016

Why Green Our Faith:  Guiding Spiritual Principles For Integral Ecology

In this time of grave ecological crisis, a global cry is rising up shouting, “What must we do to protect and cherish the integrity of the planet?”  Pope Francis, in Laudato Si, is offering one way forward by challenging us to envision integral ecology which holds social justice and ecological justice together as one. This is at the heart of the encyclical’s message.   How will the human family live into integral ecology. It is critical that faith communities actively participate in the dialogue. What is needed are sound guiding principles that will allow us to see more clearly how our Christian faith and integral ecology are interconnected. The emerging field of ecological ethics is striving to do this. Continue reading

Part 20 – December 2015

Laudato Si’ – Call To An Ecological Conversion

We have a “Green” Pope! However, Francis is not the first pope to call us to an ecological conversion. In, Laudato Si, he quotes the previous four popes who speak of the ethical and spiritual roots of the environmental problems and challenge us, as Thomas Berry said, to “reinvent the human” 1. This is a call to explore and live into, become again, one with a universe that is alive.  Which words of Francis call us to this radical change in consciousness?  Continue reading

Part 19 – September 2015

Listening For The Heartbeat Of God In The World
(Written by Sr Mary Rowell on behalf of Sr Nicole Aubé)

In his beautiful book, “Listening to the Heartbeat of God”, J. Philip Newell says, “To listen to God is to listen deep within ourselves, including deep within the collective life and consciousness of the world.”  In childhood, this listening to the “beat of God’s heart” in our surroundings often arises spontaneously.  Most of us have memories of experiencing the “music” of a running stream, the “magic” of new shoots in Spring, the magnificent colours of Fall and the “silence of snow”.  Such experiences commonly gifted us with our first sense of Sacred Presence, the call of God to both intimacy and service.  Yet, as Philip Newell says such experiences will not have been affirmed generally in our religious tradition.  Continue reading

Part 18 – March 2015

From Lent To Easter And Winter To Spring: The Journey Of Hope And Promise

As I write this short piece for the “Green Window” we are nearing the beginning of Holy Week and looking forward to the joy of Easter and Spring with all the hope that accompanies the liturgical season and the natural season – both times during which we celebrate resurrection and new life.  The Paschal Mystery celebrated in our churches and reflected so clearly in the “nature of things” – of all created life, reminds us of continuity and wholeness: cross AND resurrection, winter AND spring.  Continue reading

Part 17 – December 2014

In The Tradition Of Joseph! – An Ecological Reflection

As we embrace this time of Advent and Christmas many of the traditional images of our Faith come to the fore, not least the figure of St. Joseph and the story of his role in Christian history.

The narrative is familiar; Joseph the quiet man, the protector of Mary and Jesus. Depictions of the story are ubiquitous in this season. It may seem to be a stretch too far to link the tradition of Joseph with our call to care for the earth today! But this is precisely the link made by Pope Francis in his inaugural homily given on the Feast of St. Joseph, 2013.  Continue reading