Seeds of Justice Making A Change
The Western Australian chapter of Mercy Education Limited’s Seeds of Justice program provides students in both Mercy-sponsored schools and Mercy-affiliated schools a variety of opportunities to:
- form students and staff in the Mercy charism;
- raise awareness of contemporary issues in social justice; and
- facilitate new links between students and staff of Western Australian Mercy schools.
2022 presented some challenges for Seeds of Justice staff and students, with our original two-day style student conference moving to a one-day experience. However, the conference still provided an opportunity to stay connect to each other and consider the experience of those beyond our own backyard.
This year, students from Santa Maria College, St Brigid’s College, Aranmore Catholic College and Ursula Frayne Catholic College gathered at Goolugatup, Heathcote overlooking the picturesque waters of the Swan River. It was with great excitement that we welcomed both staff and students from Ursula Frayne Catholic College to the program for the first time in 2022.
The theme of this year’s conference allowed students to again be “empowered to respond to both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor”. This inspiring message from Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Sì allowed both staff and students to explore further this key area of justice, also identified by the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG). As articulated in the ISMAPNG 2017 Chapter Statement, “disturbed by the despair and suffering of many peoples and the degradation of Earth, we are impelled to reflective action for gospel justice.”
With the aim of facilitating new links between students and staff of Western Australian Mercy schools in mind, the day began with some initial icebreaker activities before we plunged into the depths of understanding the importance of caring for our common home in our Catholic tradition. Christine Aldous, our first presenter, was a passionate teacher who saw relevance to helping students understand that the Church’s mission is, in many ways, practical and that young people are capable of contributing to it. Chris’ presentation allowed students to explore and connect with the Indigenous understanding of ‘sense of place’ from a First Nations perspective. She provided a clear link to students about their responsibility towards creation as youth of the Catholic Church.
As the day continued, we were offered opportunities to measure our own ecological footprints with the data also suggesting how many Earths would be needed if we were to continue to live as we do. Results ranged from one to six! Being able to collate this data gave us a unique chance to research a wide variety of solutions to reduce a person’s ecological footprint. Each student group was able to generate several impactful and promising solutions.
Moving into the afternoon session gave us the chance to explore the issue of textiles waste and its impact across the globe. The screening of the short documentary Unravel opened our eyes as we witnessed what really happens to the thousands of tonnes of unwanted clothing items collected each year. With this jarring message in mind, we were challenged then to create a Seeds of Justice themed bunting to be displayed in our schools using upcycled materials and unwanted textiles. We made use of unwanted denim clothing to cut templates and printed fabric from old school uniforms to add our school colours. Our bunting will act as a reminder of not only our conference experience but also the need to be more mindful of how we dispose of unwanted textiles in the future.
Our final session of the day addressed the question “Where to from here?”. Each school was challenged to identify issues we are passionate about, together with the effects and causes of these issues. We were asked to brainstorm a variety of ways we would like to change these issues, identify a plan of action and then, most importantly, ascertain ways to measure how successful our action plan would be. It proved to certainly be a ‘watch this space’ moment as the buzz of future possibilities encompassed the group.
As with all good things, they must come to an end, and as late afternoon approached, we gathered for one final time to celebrate our end of conference liturgy in which we were commissioned as Seeds of Justice leaders and awarded our badges. As we did during the liturgy, we pray for the grace we need to be what God has destined for us…to live our life to its fullest, enjoying and caring for this great and beautiful planet. By planting the seeds of disturbance, we keep the spirit, energy, and vision of this conference alive in our own school communities and the world.
We know we can make a difference!