“There is no one among your relatives who has that name”—This Sunday’s gospel (Luke 1: 61). Sometimes in life we set new trends—from a family of doctors, one decides to be an artist; in a homogeneously religious family, one person changes his/her religion; one leaves a lucrative career to work with the poor.
This happens with the Church too—some of her clergy join the civil rights movement of the 60s; she becomes open to truth and wisdom from other religious traditions; she teams up with organisations in defending the rights of women and children.
The Church set another new trend recently, Laudato Si’, the first ever papal encyclical to focus on the environment and care for the earth.
Such was the focus of the conference on ‘Theology in the Caribbean Today’ which was held in Paramaribo, Suriname from June 11 to 15. Entitled Laudato Si’ – Caribbean Responses, the conference
sought to highlight through literature, culture, theology, scripture and history the implications of the encyclical for the Caribbean.
We have to admit we have not done well in harmonising economic development with ecological development. We have used some of our best agricultural soil for housing; flouted Town and Country regulations through contacts and bribes thereby increasing instances of flooding; hunted species to near extinction, including the Scarlet Ibis; and have paid scant attention to recycling.
Nationally and regionally, we need to espouse a new name, a new direction, as we pursue development. This was brought up particularly by the conference’s special guest speaker, Prime Minister of Dominica, the Hon Roosevelt Skerrit.
He urged that by our mode of construction, choice of agricultural crops, educational curriculum, how we respond to the demands of tourism and regional solidarity, we must help create a hurricane resilient region, not only nation. This brings to mind the challenge of catechesis, from Sunday School right up to RCIA.
We must find ways of engendering this care for the earth and the consciousness of building a resilient hurricane region through our religious education programmes, particularly Confirmation.
Often our Confirmation youngsters complain classes are boring, and in many cases, they are. Interactive videos on care for the earth can help makes classes more exciting. This is a techy age: our children live, breathe and act out of it.
All religious education classes must be relevant to life and conducted via multimedia. If we don’t pique our teenagers’ interest whether on the environment or other areas of doctrine and ethics, can we blame them when they go to other churches that will?
Since Confirmation classes now involve mandatory interaction with parents, teenagers and catechists, a golden opportunity presents itself to talk about and engage in concrete activities that show care for the earth.
Part of this new catechesis must be directed to adults as well, especially through homilies at Sunday Mass. We need to stop preaching as if we are the only important beings in the world.
We have abused the theology of imago dei—being in created in God’s image and likeness—as if the rest of creation doesn’t bear the imprint of God. This is gravely erroneous. Surely, we can do better.