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Blackwood beauty inspires parish


Surrounded by beautiful gumtrees, with native animals and birdlife on its doorstep, Blackwood parish had no hesitation in deciding to register as a Catholic Earthcare Parish.

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Run by Caritas Australia, the Earthcare program is designed to assist parishes around Australia to become ‘living Laudato Si’ communities’.

Parishes are required to undertake an audit, reviewing their current contributions towards sustainability and care for our common home. They are then asked to plan their actions so they can respond to the seven goals outlined in the recently released Laudato Si’ Action Plan.

At Blackwood, a small group of dedicated members including Caritas Advisory Committee member Barbara Colla, Jo McCann, Pauline Webster, Terry Tierney and Deacon Tee Ping Koh, is leading the way by reinforcing Pope Francis’ call to care for all creation.

They have been attending monthly Ecological Networking meetings which are bringing together like-minded parishes to share ideas. Other parishes attending include Aberfoyle Park, Victor Harbor/Goolwa, Emmaus and Hallett Cove/Brighton, with others welcome to join.

“It’s only early days but it has been good to learn about what other parishes are doing and hear from guest speakers,” Mrs Colla said.

Some of the sustainable practices at Blackwood include regular recycling, increasing the use of recycled paper and reusing green waste as compost.

In heeding the ‘cry of the poor, cry of the earth’, parishioners from Blackwood’s two Mass centres join together for a regular walking group to local sites, often drawing on the knowledge of Mrs McCann, who is a life member of The Friends of Belair National Park.

Helping to promote Laudato Si’ in the Blackwood parish, from left, Pauline Webster, Barbara Colla, Terry Tierney and Jo McCann.

A Friends of Blackwood Parish group was also formed about three years ago, with members visiting the sick, elderly and lonely in the community, with the support of parish priest Fr Tony Telford-Sharp.

Mr Tierney said deciding to become an Earthcare Parish was easy for a parish that is so aware of its local surroundings.

“We are fortunate here that because of where we live, people are already committed to looking after the environment,” he said.

In 2016 during the Year of Mercy – and following the release of Laudato Si’ in 2015 – Mr Tierney, who was then chair of the Parish Pastoral Council and then parish priest Fr Michael Kyumu became the driving forces in establishing the Mercy Grove in the nearby Belair National Park.

The old Eastern Gatehouse in the park had just been demolished and park management was looking for a group of volunteers to replant the site with native vegetation. The parish jumped at the opportunity and in the ensuing years nearly 150 trees have been planted. Parishioners have taken on the project as a labour of love, being rostered to water the young trees over the summer months and helping at occasional working bees.

The site now provides the perfect location for an annual Season of Creation celebration, with this year’s event held on Sunday October 2 in glorious spring weather conditions.

More than 55 people attended, taking part in prayers and reflection, as well as a meditation session conducted by Wayne Brabin, spiritual director with Ignatian Heart Spirituality.  During the prayer service attendees were asked to make a commitment to Mother Earth, writing it on a piece of recycled paper and returning it to the earth in a prepared hole.

Addressing the gathering, Ms Webster said that while the Season of Creation was a designated time of the year on the calendar of Christian churches, it should not be the only time for “reflecting on God’s creation and working to protect it”.

“We all know that momentum for ecological awareness and action is gathering pace not only in our everyday lives – but also in our churches,” she said.

“Increasingly, we are recognising that caring for people and caring for the environment are one and the same. Destruction of environments impacts people.”

The Mercy Grove is open to anyone who would like to spend some quiet time in nature. Parishes wanting more information about becoming a Catholic Earthcare Parish should go to




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