What is Loving Sister Earth?
It is our response to Pope Francis’ challenge to protect Planet Earth and to work for Universal Harmony.
What does Loving Sister Earth do?
It works to develop a Nationwide Network of Prayer and Care for our Common Home, focused on Ireland’s Holy Places.
Why the Holy Places?
Our Holy Places offer inspiration and energy, identity and rootedness, which encourage us to protect the local environment by building on our heritage.
What Can You do?
You can become with others a prayer friend of your local Holy Place, and promote love for Sister Earth in practical ways, however small.
What is the connection between Universal Harmony & Loving Sister Earth?
Early Celtic Christians had a harmonious relationship with the natural world: for them, creation was infused with the energy of God, which they named Neart De. They spoke of ‘thin places’ where the divide between the natural and the divine was porous. Hence the many Holy Places all around Ireland, most obviously Holy Wells, which alone may number three thousand.
Loving Sister Earth promotes gatherings at these Holy Places because, to borrow from Newman, they are the storehouses of the past and the birthplaces of the future. There we pray for our world and ask for the grace that human beings may live in harmony–with each other, with the natural world, and with their Creator. Physicists tell us that our world is held in harmony by innumerable relationships, and our ways of relating impact on it for good or ill. So reflection and prayer at the Holy Places lead us to action which encourages profound respect for the uniqueness of all beings. The abundant diversity of species is a celebration of difference as beautiful, and the dynamics of giving and receiving between birds, animals and plants teach us how we humans can come to live in universal harmony. This, then, is the ultimate goal of the project, Loving Sister Earth.
Who are we?
We are a small group of four with limited resources other than the strong conviction that God is inviting us to play our part in the saving of Planet Earth. We have come together from a variety of interests. One has long cherished a love for our Celtic past and believes that we can draw much wealth from it today. Another has come to see that when everything is said and done, life is all about love. A third has the dream of a world united in prayer, encompassing all religions. We found to our surprise that our interests overlapped and could be expressed by building a network of ‘Prayer and Care’ for the planet. So in 2014 our project, Loving Sister Earth, was born. In 2015 Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si, called everyone to prayer and action on behalf of ‘Our Common Home’ and this convinced us that we were on the right lines. The Irish Episcopal Conference is supportive of our project.
Our dream is to tap the spiritual energy hidden in Ireland’s Holy Places, by renewing interest in those places which our ancestors recognised as holy. These are close at hand, and richly spread across our land. We believe that in order to care for the earth we need to be in touch with it, to sense and feel it. So we invite you to visit any Holy Place, because there you find yourself in contact with the earth in a simple and direct way. You come to love the stones, the water, wind, grass, trees, flowers, birds, insects; the light, clouds, rain, sky, sunshine, shadows, sounds… When you lovingly contemplate these simple things you gain the energy you need to care for them. For more than 1500 years our sacred shrines have provided our forebears with that spiritual energy. This is evident from the celebrations at our holy wells, high crosses, Mass rocks, round towers, monastic sites, holy mountains, holy islands and pilgrim paths. Now it is our turn to be nourished by these Holy Places. Gradually we will come to recognise that Earth is not simply sprinkled with holy places but is itself a global Holy Place. Only then will Planet Earth be in safe care.
Where You Come In!
To accomplish our project we now need your help to identify the Holy Places around you which still attract devotion. Please send us contact details: we can then invite the Contact Persons to participate in Loving Sister Earth. This will mean including in their celebrations themes based on Laudato Si and the forming of local action groups for the care of the Earth. The fruits of these will be shared on this website, which will offer support, resources and links to other sites. International links will encourage other countries to engage in their own creative projects, while we can learn from theirs.
In this way we will build up around Ireland’s Holy Places a network of concerned persons to form ‘A National Prayer and Care Grid’! People will celebrate and pray for the Earth at their local sites, and then discern together how to follow prayer with action. Action may entail challenging illegal dumping, fish kills, the disappearance of the humble corncrake or the destruction of habitats of birds and insects. Loving Sister Earth is ecumenical and will work in solidarity with other Earth Groups. Together we will provide an Irish response to the challenges set by Laudato Si. We will keep Pope Francis informed of progress, and we believe he will be pleased!
World Day of Prayer
In August 2015 Pope Francis designated September 1st as World Day of Prayer for Creation. Others have extended this date from September 1 to October 4, the Feast of St Francis of Assisi. What is important is our ongoing prayer and care for the Earth, rather than details of dates! Every day can be a day of prayer and care for our earth! Our celebration for 2018 was held on October 15th & 16th when Creative Prayer Rituals were live-streamed globally from some of Ireland’s Holy Places through www.clicktopray.org/en/news, and YouTube in www.lovingsisterearth.com.
Save the date-Sunday 16th June 2019
This year we are planning a National Holy Wells Day for Sunday 16th June. We are asking people to find the Holy Wells in their area, to visit them and pray for “the protection and fair distribution of water.” This will be a cross border and ecumenical endeavour with the Columba Community, Derry.
Many Holy Places of Ireland have their annual date for celebration. These are called Pattern Days (after the word ‘Patron’). See in our website the page Irish Dioceses and their Patron Saints, where 43 dates are listed! You can join others in celebration on such dates. But if you can’t attend, you can pray in your own garden, because, as the mystics know, wherever you pray, you pray for the universe! And you can symbolise by some simple action your solidarity with others in caring for Sister Earth. Plant a flower bulb, clean up some litter, put your name to a petition for some action on behalf of Planet earth.
This tiny planet, wandering among the stars, is Our Common Home, our only home in the cosmos, and God cares for its every detail. But now Sister Earth is like the half-dead traveller of the parable of the Good Samaritan! We are to be neighbours to her as he was to the wounded man, when, moved with compassion he took care of the broken man, paid his nursing care and got him back to health. We must ‘go and do likewise’ for Sister Earth (Luke 10:37)!
Members of the Organising Group
Brian’s publications include Our Graced Life–Stories; Finding God in All Things; To Grow in Love-A Spirituality of Ageing; Where to from Here?-The Christian Vision of Life after Death; Alone and on Foot-a Life of St Ignatius; and Making Good Decisions-A Beginner’s Guide. With Phyllis Brady he co-authored Meeting Matters: Spirituality and Skills for Meetings. Brian was for several years the Director and Editor of Sacred Space, a world-wide online Jesuit prayer site. He is currently Superior of the Jesuit House of Writers in Leeson St, Dublin and has written and lectured on Pope Francis (also a Jesuit!)
Brian Grogan SJ is a former President of Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy in Dublin and Associate Professor of Spirituality. He was a founder of the Knock Prayer Guidance Ministry in 1990 and has helped to develop it for the past twenty-five years. He is currently a member of the Knock Faith Renewal Council.
Brian’s life-long interest is in making theology and spirituality accessible to everyone.
Elaine O’Leary is married with six daughters and four granddaughters and lives in Dublin. She has studied at the Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy where she obtained a Theology Degree in Spirituality and Pastoral Care and Masters Degree in Applied Christian Spirituality.
Elaine has worked for many years at the Marian Shrine at Knock as a Prayer Guide. The mission of the Prayer Guide is to facilitate a personal encounter with God. She has given workshops with Helen Grealy on Celtic Christian Spirituality and its relevance for today.
Elaine believes strongly in the interconnectedness of the spiritual journey and everyday life and in the power of prayer.
Helen Grealy is a Sister of Our Lady of the Cenacle, an International Congregation founded to give the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. The Sisters engage with people in their joys and sorrows, their hopes and dreams, facilitate good decision making and finding meaning in life.
Helen has a Higher Diploma in Pastoral Theology and a Masters Degree in Celtic Christianity. She is a Retreat Giver, a Spiritual Director and a Prayer Guide. Helen has worked in many Cenacle Spirituality Centres. She has been a member of the staff of The Centre for Spiritual Renewal, Kumasi, Ghana, West Africa and at the Hawkstone International Pastoral Centre, Shropshire, England. More recently she has worked part-time at The Milltown Institute, Dublin.
In her ministry Helen has experienced the Holy Spirit working deeply in people’s lives and now believes that a global transformation is possible.
Phyllis Brady, MA, M.Min, a mother and grandmother, has worked for many years in pastoral ministry, spiritual guidance, facilitation, pastoral supervision and third level teaching. A former head of student services, chaplain and lecturer in Applied Spirituality at Milltown Institute, she also lectured at All Hallows College, Dublin.
She has designed, organised and coordinated prayer projects in the Dublin Diocese and at Knock Shrine, Mayo. A founder member of the Spiritual Guidance and Supervisors Associations of Ireland (AISGA and SAI), she offers group and individual supervision and spiritual guidance.
With Brian Grogan SJ she co-authored Meetings Matter: Spirituality & Skills for Meetings: Dublin: Veritas, 2009.
“The characteristics of Christian Celtic Spirituality are like an underground river that runs throughout the land just waiting to be invited to the surface to quench the thirst again of our searching and thirsty people.”
Father Neal Carlin. (Columba Community)