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Sr Gail Worcelo is a Passionist Sister and the co-founder of Green Mountain Monastery in Vermont, USA. The monastery, situated among an evergreen forest in the north-east corner of the country, is steadfastly committed to the healing and protection of the Earth.
In 1999 the monastery laid its foundations under the guidance of Sr Gail and her mentor, the late Fr Thomas Berry, an eco-theologian who’s work focussed on the harmony of Earth and its inhabitants.
This week, Sr Gail is presenting at Melbourne’s Abbotsford Convent in a Tuesday-night lecture sponsored by the John Wallis Foundation and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. The event, part of a series of talks Sr Gail is delivering to Australian audiences across several weeks, aims to foster a new dialogue in the conversation of caring for the planet.
‘We’re in a moment,’ explains Sr Gail. ‘It’s important to help people recognise that we’re all responsible for caring for this world.’
‘Throughout our faith we have had people who have met the moment,’ she says, touching on a long history of religious communities responding to the needs of society. ‘Many Catholic communities involve Earth-care in their missions but, for us, it is our substance and foundation.’
‘In a moment of grace
, as I call them, you only have a short period where you either deal with it or you don’t. That’s what we’re doing at Green Mountain,’ says Sr Gail.
Sr Gail’s religious calling, she reveals, is intrinsically linked to her love for the Earth, with her faith and environmentalism each inspiring the other.
‘I couldn't imagine them separate,’ she says, ‘I couldn't imagine having a faith that’s isolated from the total community of life. Everything is connected and in relationship to everything else. The Earth, created by the divine, is sacred and I can't imagine my faith not being connected to that.’
Under Pope Francis' pontificate, Sr Gail’s mission has been strengthened through the dialogue the Holy Father has adopted, as witnessed in his encyclical Laudato si’
‘I think the Catholic experience has changed enormously. Laudato si’
has contributed to the awakening of our relationship to Earth,’ she says.
‘Because it came from Pope Francis and because it’s a document he wrote for all people, not just Catholics, it has propelled our tradition forward. Twenty years ago, even in my own community, people just didn’t get it.
‘Now its throughout our media and young people are being educated about it. The Church has to move with the times and move with the planetary moment. I can’t see us going backwards from here,’ Sr Gail adds. The John Wallis annual lectures are held in honour of Father John Corcoran Wallis, a Tasmanian priest, whose vision and spirit continue to inspire the work of the John Wallis Foundation and the Missionary Sisters of Service, the congregation he founded.
For more information on Sr Gail’s presentation and on the foundation, please visit: https://jwf.org.au/category/john-wallis-memorial-lectures/