During my 70 years of religious life since my First Profession as a Good Samaritan Sister, several wonderful experiences have been mine, but two stand out, writes Jacinta Shailer SGS.
One was being sent to Japan as a missionary and the other was being given the opportunity to study Culture and Creation Spirituality in California during Australia’s Bicentennial Year.
In Japan it did not take me long to realise that the Japanese people were wonderfully attuned to the seasons. Slowly, at least some of their affinity with nature seeped into me. I remember that special afternoon standing in our convent’s inner garden, and experiencing something new on my cheek, the gentle movement of air, announcing the coming of autumn, after a very hot summer.
How magnificent are the colours of autumn. The whole atmosphere seems to be enriched and alive with reds, yellows, greens and orange. Beauty abounds in every leaf and tree. The whole world smiles in mellow light.
The cold of winter seemed to seep into my bones but the glory of inches of snow beautifies the whole landscape. The pine trees stand in white glowing majesty and the cold is forgotten. How one longs for the first bud of spring! When that special first bud opens up and cherry blossoms light up the world with their pale pink radiance, one feels the energies of new life bursting forth in the land and in one’s own heart. The springing of new life everywhere exults in new-born joy.
On returning to Australia I was appointed to Najara, a place of Ecology and Spiritual Development, outside Nambour on the Sunshine Coast. Thanks to my love of nature, which Japan had gifted me with, I became involved with a small ecumenical group that was trying to save the pristine area round Emu Mountain from thoughtless development.
Our efforts failed, but it resulted in being introduced to Creation Spirituality by a Marist Missionary Sister. My great interest and enthusiasm for what was, for me, a new spirituality, led me, thanks to our Congregation, to California to study Culture and Creation Spirituality.
Here the inspiring teachers such as Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, Matthew Fox, and others opened up to me the story of the universe and aspects of a deeper spirituality evolving from the whole inter-relatedness of all creatures great and small, and the interconnectivity of every atom, molecule and photon. One day I felt so devastated at what we humans were doing to our Mother Earth, I went to Brian Swimme and asked him what I could do to help restore our planet. Brian replied, “Steep yourself in beauty, Jacinta, and then you will know what to do.”
Since then I have used my gift of photography, which a Japanese friend discovered in me, to imbibe, through the camera lens, the beauty of our native flowers and landscape. By sharing their splendour I hope others might be inspired to restore and enhance the land, our home.
Being appointed to Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains, I had the opportunity to share and delve deeper into the spiritual implications of the story of the universe being daily revealed by science and theological insights. Giving courses in Creation Spirituality with the help of a wonderful team, and later having monthly cosmology gatherings at our Community House, I was encouraged to deepen my grasp of the divine in our world. How I would love to understand more fully Ilia Delio’s words, “Every single element of the world begins to radiate divine love shining through the everyday stuff of the world.” (Praying in Teilhard ‘s Universe)
Thanks to the discoveries of science and new theological insights, we are living in a world of expanding planetary consciousness. We have a new understanding of the evolutionary development of all that exists in this wondrous cosmos in which we live.
Our God is no longer in a place up there, but all creation is a mirror of God. We rejoice in the presence of the divine in all that is, in every human, in the most distant star, in the rise and fall of a sunlit wave, in green pea pods, in a fluttering leaf, or a roving neutron.
We are immersed in love. In all this wonder we humans are called to care for our Mother Earth, a reflection of God’s presence to us. We realise that our relationship with the divine does not depend on rules and regulations, but on seeking love in the unfathomable network of our inter-relational life. Our calling is to reach out to those in need, to send out ripples of hope and joy to our broken world, to heal and enhance our Mother Earth and to dwell in the Holy One “in whom we live and move and have our being.”