A member of the newly-formed Catholic Council for Integral Ecology, Margaret is a great example of practising what she preaches, with ‘refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle’ the mantra in her everyday life.
“My recycling bin is actually quite full, but that’s because it hasn’t been put out since Christmas,” she told The Southern Cross. “My rubbish bin will probably be ready to go out in four weeks and it hasn’t been out for several months.
“I try and reuse and repurpose everything and try not to buy things that I don’t want, that I don’t need. When I buy new clothes they have to be clothes with a purpose otherwise I buy second hand,” she added.
“For Christmas last year I went to an Op Shop and bought a great big piece of material which was an offcut and made about 50 produce bags to give to people. This year I’m making reusable Christmas wrappings from scraps in my sewing box.”
And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Since moving into her unit three years ago Margaret has planted a native garden to replace the weeds outside, her bathroom has limited plastics as she opts for a bamboo toothbrush and shampoo bar, she keeps a bucket in the shower to catch excess water, and there are always seedlings being nurtured to become food producing plants.
A committed member of the Greenacres/Walkerville Catholic parish since her teenage years, Margaret writes a column for the weekly newsletter, in which she outlines simple ways other parishioners can follow Pope Francis’ lead to ‘care for our common home’.
Admitting her concern about ecological issues goes back a long way, Margaret said the publication of Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ in 2015 re-ignited her faith and commitment to the cause. At the time when it was released she was travelling through England and hadn’t had the opportunity to read it. On the night before she was due to return to Australia a friend lent her a copy and it was a ‘light bulb’ moment.
“I took it to bed and I read the first couple of chapters – I just couldn’t put it down,” Margaret recalled.
“I was just so taken with it. I thought wow, this is all the stuff I’ve been saying and I want to say but as an individual no-one listens, you can’t be heard. But now the Pope is saying it, it was just so fantastic. I felt really joyful.
“What spoke to me personally, was the fact that climate and social justice were so integrally united, and I don’t think that had been really recognised in the community.”
Margaret said having worked on anti-poverty projects, been involved in training financial counsellors and emergency relief workers, she could see what government policies were doing to people on the ground and how “consumerism was enveloping everything”.
“I could see that was all happening but I didn’t feel as though I had a voice big enough to make a difference and so the fact that the Pope was saying it I thought, people can’t ignore this.”
Buoyed by the possibilities of what might unfold, Margaret said she was dismayed on her return to Adelaide to see very little happening in the parishes. Undeterred she joined the online Laudato Si’ community and completed the animators’ course.
With the passing of her husband Alex after a long illness she had more time to promote the encyclical in her own parish and now as a member of the Integral Council hopes to be a conduit in the sharing of information.
“I’ve always been this aware (of the ecological issues) but not as active. I’ve worked and studied and looked after Alex and the children but now that I have the time I am becoming even more aware and trying to make other people more aware and give them simple ideas to follow, because it can be overwhelming,” the 73 year old said.
“As a member of the Council I am hoping to take information from our parish to them about what we are doing and be inspired by what other parishes are doing.”
Margaret has also connected with the multi-faith Australian Religious Response to Climate Change group and is planning an event in the neighbourhood next year. She has contacted local church leaders and is hoping people of faith will join her for a rally opposite the ABC building in Collinswood, with nearby church bells ringing to “sound the alarm on climate”.
Believing one is never too old to change their way of looking at things, Margaret is heartened that climate change and social justice issues are high on the agenda of today’s youth and the future is in good hands.
“I went to the Adelaide School Strike 4 Climate last year, along with a lot of other grandmothers, and it was just fantastic. It does give me hope. It is so urgent we do something about this.”Jump to next article