When Mother Vincent Whitty arrived at Adderton—later the Convent of Our Lady of Mercy, All Hallows’—in 1863, some of her first impressions were of the house’s natural surroundings. ‘I wish I could give you an idea of the beauty of the situation of this house’, she wrote in a letter to Dublin. ‘The view of the river from the balcony is lovely and in the distance the thick bush, here and there cleared away … is certainly very beautiful.’ Mother Vincent delighted in Queensland’s flora, believing that the State had the most beautiful native flowers in the world. She wrote to an Irish friend, ‘I wish you could all come and see … —the lovely Australian flowers.’
Mother Vincent’s abiding love of the Australian landscape and environment has echoed through generations of Sisters of Mercy in Brisbane. Caring for the earth through sustainable living and engagement with nature has been a central feature of the Sisters’ charism throughout the twentieth century and to the present day. Caring for the earth is a core value of Adderton: house & heart of mercy.
Today, the Sisters’ interest in sustainability and the environment is more relevant than ever before. In 2015, Pope Francis released an encyclical on climate and justice called Laudato Si. In it, Pope Francis called climate change ‘a global problem with serious implications, environmental, social, economic, political.’ The degradation of the planet, he explained, ‘represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.’ Pope Francis reiterated his commitment to addressing climate change in 2016, when he called for the care of the planet to be added as a new corporal work of mercy, alongside feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. He encouraged people around the world to undertake ‘simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness.’
As we celebrate World Environment Day for 2017, Pope Francis’s message of sustainability, simplicity and reverence for the earth is a call to action. Visit worldenvironmentday.global to learn how to become involved in this year’s theme, and ‘reconnect to nature’.