Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 6, 2006
Sister campaigns for clean environment
Loving God means respecting his creation says Sr. Jeannette
"If I am destroying the earth, I'm destroying God.
Sr. Jeannette Filthaut
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
If we respect God, we have to respect his creation, maintains Sister Jeannette Filthaut, a Catholic nun and retired educator with a passion for the environment.
But we don't seem to get it and continue to destroy the earth and ourselves by leaps and bounds, the sister lamented in an Oct. 30 interview in her 17th floor apartment overlooking the North Saskatchewan River Valley.
"We are not creating a wonderland; we are creating a wasteland. And that's because we've lost that sense of wonder and connectedness with the beauty of our earth."
What's happening with the Alberta tar sands right now is an abuse of creation because it's just not considering the global effect that it is going to have, the sister said. "It's not considering all of the environment around it. It's all economics; that's what it is."
Wars are about control
It's the same with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "The wars are all about control and economy and I think we have to learn to live in harmony with God, with the whole creation and with one another," Filthaut said.
"We are co-creators with God who created us in his own image and likeness. And if I am destroying the earth, I'm destroying God. If I am destroying another person, I am destroying God. If I am destroying myself, I am abusing God as well."
Filthaut is one of several speakers addressing Ecology and Spirituality: What is the Connection? presented by the Star of the North Retreat Centre in St. Albert. The series seek to raise people's ecological awareness and sensitivity by providing the scientific as well as the spiritual side of the issue.
Filthaut's presentation, Tending the Spirit Within: Living Non-Violently on our Earth, will be held Nov. 6 and 20.
Born in Edmonton, Filthaut was raised on the open prairies of Saskatchewan, where she fell in love with God's creation. When she moved to Ontario as a teacher and saw the pollution, she realized she had to do something to make a difference. For a number of years she has led workshops and other activities.
Her congregation, the Sisters of Providence of Kingston, Ont., has for many years taken a stance of living non-violently and being in harmony with creation. It is even part of their charter.
The sisters have an ecology committee and at their motherhouse in Kingston they began organic gardening, built a greenhouse and have a seed sanctuary with seeds that go back to the 1600s. Every year they have a tomato-tasting day, which has become a popular tradition.
Filthaut continues the tradition and this year she planted organic tomatoes on her balcony and preserved the seeds, which she plans to give away to others.
In the interview Filthaut showed genuine concern about what is going on with the earth, especially with the tar sands developments and the current wars.
"I lived in Calgary for a year and I watched the development over there. And these are big homes. Why are we building these big homes and it is only one or two people living in them?"
"If I put pesticide on the grass out there is that going to leach into the water? Look at what happened to the lakes around us, like Pigeon Lake. People couldn't go swimming in Pigeon Lake this year because of the toxins that come from what we are putting into the land.
"All one has to do is to open a person's cupboards under the kitchen sink and see the types of toxins we are putting in. What's in our soaps, what is in our cleaning agents? Industrial companies do a lot but so do we. We do the same thing."
Why do we have so much cancer in our society today? "It's because of what we are putting into our bodies and it is because of what we are putting into our earth. What goes around comes around. What I do to the earth I do to myself."
We think we ought be in control but Filthaut disagrees. "I don't believe we are meant to be in control of; we are meant to live in harmony with," she said. "Yes, we can use the riches of the earth but I think we abuse."
So how are we going to live non-violently? "I think if I am going to live in the community of the earth then I need to be able to respect all of creation," Filthaut said. "And I need to be able to respect the people who are different.
Filthaut said we can also make a difference by taking small steps such as protesting the wars, composting, using energy efficient light bulbs, buying organic produce, driving smaller cars or simply using public transit.
"We are very greedy. We are destroying the earth and ourselves. We have to slow everything down and I think it is in the slowing down and being more considerate that we would realize that we can make a difference," the sister said. "We can make a difference. The land heals itself if we give it time."