Caring for All Life
"The main difficulty in human affairs in these opening years of the twenty-first century seems to be the loss of our sense of wonder, our sense of the sacred, our sense of play and laughter, our inability to respond to the dawn or sunset, the loss of our vision of the stars"
Caring for Our Common Home
The Medical Mission Sisters’ vision to care for life in all its forms long predates much of the activity in the current climate action movement, as we know it today. In the report of their General Chapter 1991, it is written: “Ecological degradation threatens life of the earth and is giving rise to health problems affecting large segments of the human family. The poor are especially vulnerable ... If the very life systems of the earth which presently support the human family are destroyed, then life will not be sustainable into the future. In the interest of future generations, each community needs to promote not only its own wellbeing, but the overall wellbeing of the earth as well.”
The Society also heeded an early instruction to ‘speak out’ on behalf of the environment when it was given at the first climate change conference at the Vatican in 2007 by outspoken speaker, Thomas Berry. His visionary thinking strongly influenced the Medical Mission Sisters, including Sister Elly Veriijt, now a trained leader in ecology in The Netherlands.
From the mid-1980s, Sister Elly Verrijt looked for ways to work with the ecological crisis, as it became more and more urgent. This took her first to Genesis Farm in 1998, a study-and-earth literacy centre, close to New York in the USA. Upon return in The Netherlands, she founded De Gaarde on a small farm in Udenhout in 1999. ‘Gaarde’ is an old Dutch name for a garden with trees. Here, until 2009, she welcomed many visitors; mostly, people searching for meaning in their lives. A vibrant community grew up around her, sharing, day-by-day, her strong commitment to adopting a significantly more eco-friendly, simpler lifestyle in Europe.
Our New MMS Eco-Education and Healing Centre near Tororo, East Africa
Sister Elly continues to share her ecological worldview widely - most recently leading an international workshop for Medical Mission Sisters and other invited guests in East Africa. Under her inspiration, the sisters are creating an MMS Eco-Education and Healing Centre in Tororo, Eastern Uganda. This visionary, ‘green’ Centre is designed to ensure that in the face of climate change, environmental degradation is left behind and a radical change in lifestyle can be adopted by marginalised communities in the vicinity, made more vulnerable by its effects - transforming what for them is often a daily struggle to survive into one in which everyone can prosper and thrive. We are striving in what we do to reflect the words of Pope Francis in his second encyclical letter, Laudato si’ (Praise be to You): “Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace and the joyful celebration of life.” (Laudato si’, 207).
Our MMS Haven for Ecological and Alternative Living (HEAL) in The Philippines
This is not the first centre of its type to be created by the Medical Mission Sisters; in the Philippines in 2006, we established the Haven for Ecological and Alternative Living, known as HEAL, as a centre for ecological living and learning. This enables our sisters in The Philippines to demonstrate the integrity of all creation, to act where this integrity is dangerously threatened and to live up each day more fully to the Society’s commitment: “We pledge ourselves to grow in eco-spirituality and witness it in our lifestyle. In our mission involvement, we want to increase awareness of environmental degradation and its implication.” [Fourteenth General Chapter Report, 2014).
Our New MMS Eco-Health and Healing Centre in Pune, India
Finally, in April 2021, on a hillside known locally as the ‘green lung’, of Pune, India, the new MMS Eco-Health and Healing Centre was blessed to open its doors to people from all faith backgrounds. Its healing presence is particularly appreciated by people living with HIV/AIDS and children with Down syndrome who come to the MMS clinic for regular treatment. As Pope Francis reminds us in Laudato si’: “Today … we have to realise that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
Each of the five elements are present in the beautiful stained-glass windows which adorn the new meditation hall in Pune. Looking through Sister Rowena’s colourful, handmade designs of the elements, as seen above, no-one entering the hall can leave without being reminded that we all have a responsibility, wherever we live, to respond to the cry of the Earth and to care together for our Common Home.
Laudato si' - Praise Be To You
We are striving in what we do to reflect the words of Pope Francis in his second encyclical letter, Laudato si’ (Praise be to You), May 2015:
“Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace and the joyful celebration of life.”
Caring for All Life
For nearly one hundred years, the Medical Mission Sisters have expressed 'Caring for All Life' in countless other ways, too - whether responding to material or spiritual needs in maternity wards, at the bedsides of patients across the world or in some the world's worst slums.
We also campaign for justice and peace, whether in communities or at UN level, to express this same commitment to caring for all life.
In short, we seek to become a healing presence, wherever it is most need.