Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 4, 2002
Sister devoted to 'earth literacy'
Humans one with nature, she says
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Sister Maureen Wild is passionate about her belief that we are one body, one life community, one interacting web. And she has made it her mission to educate others about our interconnectedness and interdependence with the universe and earth community.
For 11 years Wild taught at and directed an ecological learning centre in New Jersey and now she runs a Canada-wide earth literacy program from Salt Spring Island, B.C. She describes her job as "raising consciousness about the earth."
Why did this sister do it? "Because it's so deep in my identity and passion," she replies. "I have been so shaken into new understandings of who I am in terms of my relationship to the whole of creation that I can't not do it. I have to share it."
Wild used to live a worldview that separated humans from the natural world. Now she believes all creation is sacred and deserving of respect and protection. "In this critical time of ecological crisis, Earth calls us to recognize and reclaim our kinship, our inherent oneness with Earth, and to honour all of our ancestors and relatives, human and other-than-human, as sacred," she says.
Wild, a Sister of Charity of Halifax, was a guest speaker at the annual convention of the Canadian Association for Pastoral Practice and Education in Edmonton Jan. 23-26. Close to 250 chaplains and pastoral workers from across Canada attended the event.
The committed environmentalist proposes a holistic partnership approach to create a healthy society dedicated to the restoration of damaged ecosystems and damaged human communities.
Wild's perception on creation has been shaped by life itself. She emerged out of Alberta's Peace River country and, as she puts it, "experiences of moose and mountain, northern lights and fields of grain have fashioned my soul."
She was raised on a farm where the stewardship model was practised. Wild bonded deeply with animals who were her primary play companions. In school, she was taught the human evolved from the primate and that humans were separate from the rest of creation because humans were infused with souls.
But she also learned about St. Francis of Assisi and how he spoke to animals and praised God for all aspects of the created world.
In church, Wild was taught that everything was given to humans for their use and that humans had dominion over the rest of creation. "But I also sang hymns that proclaimed our awe and wonder before the magnificence of creation."
Twenty years ago, Dr. Rosalie Bertell, scientist and Catholic sister, stretched Wild's sense of the role of the human when she gave a talk in Edmonton. "She said that to continue to operate out of this worldview of domination would lead us to increased diminishment as a species and eventually to genocide and biocide - the death of the planet as we know it," recalled Wild.
Her worldview was further shattered in 1987 in Toronto when she became familiar with the thoughts of Father Thomas Berry, who maintains "the universe is a unit, an interacting, evolving and genetically related community of beings bound together in an inseparable relationship in space and time."
After teaching in rural Alberta and serving in Edmonton, Wild headed for Boston in 1989 to teach inner city children. There she wrote a curriculum and did her thesis on earth literacy and new cosmology.
Later she expanded her studies at Genesis Farm, an ecological learning centre in New Jersey. She was director of Genesis Farm from 1996 until the fall of 2000, when she moved to Salt Spring Island.
Wild runs her earth literacy program from "a tiny little cottage" surrounded by animals and water and plants. She spends countless hours guiding retreats, workshops and speaking to parishes, missionaries, community groups, schools and other organizations.
She also created two cyber space communication networks, a Canadian one called Companions of Earth and an international network called Sisters of Charity Visioning.
The sister feels at home in Salt Spring Island, "because it is full of people who have a high ecological sensitivity. I think Salt Spring Island is a rich pocket of consciousness that is rare on the planet, not just our country."