|(Photo:tarumitra.wordpress.com) People taking a study tour of Bio-diversity at Tarumitra|
Twenty four Jesuits from eight provinces spent eight days in the lake-town of Sawantwadi to seek what they said was an earth-building eco-spirituality relevant for the modern times.
Bishop Alwyn Baretto of Sindhudurg, who inaugurated the eco-retreat, said the Church needs pioneers to investigate the spiritual realms related to ecology. Ecological problems are getting more intense, and the Church needs to be part of the solution, he added.
A team from Tarumitra (friends of trees), a green group based in Patna, Bihar, animated the retreat.
Orla Hazra, one of the resource persons, conducted the “cosmic walk” to help the participants understand the 13.7 billion history of the universe. Called, the Big History, the attempt was to see salvation history extended to the beginning of the cosmos at the Big Bang when the universe exploded into existence.
The group spent quality time with the Earth and spent most of the days outdoors.
They celebrated Mass on all days in what they called “God’s Cathedral,” in the open under tall trees with candle/earthen lights. The group made a pilgrimage to the biodiversity-rich Narendrapur mountains as part of the celebration of God’s creation.
Jesuit Father Mathias Kisku from Dumka, Jharkhand, expressed satisfaction over the week of PowerPoint presentations, prayers and celebrations. “It is time for the Church to explore the rich tradition of the Adivasis for an effective way of living in harmony with nature,” he said.
Another participant Fr. James Mascarenhas, an activist and a lawyer from Mumbai, appreicated the way the Tarumitra team explained the stages of spiritual growth.
He said that spirituality is always in transition, from the elemental popular spirituality of rites and rituals, the Church helps the Religious to travel toward ascetical and mystical levels. “Eco-spirituality in all these three levels needs discussion, guidance and experimentation,” he added.
Recapitulating the progress made by the participants who were mostly in their fifties, Fr Lancy D’Cruz from St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad, said “We are in the process of constituting a Resource Team of activists, pastors, formation personnel and scholars in life sciences at the national level to promote a holistic eco-spirituality for our times.”
The group suggested that the Religious communities must experiment with an eco-friendly way of life through practices such as using bio-wood stoves for cooking, planting trees, saving electricity and organizing appropriate liturgical celebrations on earth-themes.
Other resource persons were Sister Mudita Sodder and Jesuit Father Robert Athickal, the founder director of Tarumitra.
The Western Region Jesuits in Social Action conducted the Ignatian eco retreat the Navsarni Pastoral Center of the Sindhudurg diocese.
India: Twenty-six percent of the state's 1.5 million population is catholic.