“It was an unforgettable experience: The wonderful park, the Mass and the meditations made it a full immersion in both nature and the Scriptures. It was an international environment in which all continents were represented. A true cathedral of creation. I will carry the image of the gigantic linden tree, the cathedral of nature, in my heart “(Ida Russo, Taranto)

The students of the  Joint Diploma in  Integral Ecology course who participated in the Laudato Si’ Retreat organized during  Laudato Si’ Week, share in their own words, how this beautiful pathway through eco-spirituality in the heart of Rome came about. Starting from past experiences of the  Laudato Si’ Circuits in Assisi, through the move towards eco-spirituality in recent years, the  Sisters of Charity of Saint Joan Antida Thouret (considering their charism, their hospitality and the wonderful service that they provide for the poor worldwide) offered a wonderful opportunity for the Laudato Si’ Retreat to flourish in the heart of the city of Rome.

“Laudato Si’, Praised be you, for the oasis of peace and beauty in the heart of Rome. The Mass in the Cathedral of Creation remains the strongest experience along with the contemplation and testimonies of the Sisters of Charity. The cosmic altar made from the trunk of an olive tree whose roots were turned, just like our hands, towards the sky, offering the whole world to God. The three key words of the retreat: mission, community and unity, are present in my reflections on integral ecology every day, urging me to answer: Yes! Here I am!”(Simona Cecilia Crociani Baglioni Farcas, Roma)

The retreat took place according to the program prepared by the Laudato Si’ Movement. Father Joshtrom Kureethadam (coordinator of the “Ecology and Creation” sector of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development of the Vatican) led the Retreat and celebrated the opening Mass. He was then joined by Antonio Caschetto (coordinator of the Italian and eco spirituality programs of the Laudato Si’ Movement) for the “Song of Creation”, “Cry of Creation” and “Call to Action” with the help of  Sister Mirna Farah and Sister Maria Rita Siboni (Sisters of Charity of Saint Joan Antida Thouret) There were many contributions by the participants at various times throughout the day  in particular during the  Laudato Si’ Chaplet.

“A beautiful experience of sharing, walking and of spiritual growth, where the importance of care, of taking care is affirmed, starting from the spaces and places we live in, just as the Sisters who welcomed us do very well. The garden-park surrounded by greenery favored the contemplation of creation and enhanced the concentration and meditation on the reflections in which the leaders-speakers guided us. An experience that you could also try with couples and/or family in the wake of “walking together”, sharing … networking” (Enrico Gennari, Pesaro).

The house of the Sisters of Charity at the foot of the Aventine was purchased in 1860. The  river Tiber washed up human and animal corpses onto the avenue of the convent. The neighborhood was populated by poor people and was teeming with children. Soon the Sisters of Charity opened a kindergarten and a dispensary to serve the sick, started to educate the young and feed the poor with fruit and vegetables from the garden.

Today’s world needs ecological prophets. God hears the cry of the earth and sees all kinds of injustice and over-exploitation inflicted on the planet. As in the time of Moses, in Santa Maria in Cosmedin there is a bush that is in flames but not burning; the students of the Joint Diploma course approached it, loosening the bonds of their prejudices. In silent dialogue, we reflected on the sufferings and wounds of Mother Earth and contemplated God’s desire to save creation. “And now go”! This is the invitation received by the students. Go and repair my house, go prepare the way of the Lord and ask for an ecological conversion!

“LISTENING and SHARING – It was a beautiful and engaging experience, which favored exchange with others and with oneself and the intimate opening to the breath of the Spirit. The care, attention and personal involvement of those who organized and managed the day were a concrete testimony of the path of conversion to which we are all called “(Antonio Fiore, Roma).

It’s a pathway that can be repeated for all those who wish to immerse themselves, if only for a few hours, in the experience of listening to creation and learning to ‘read the book of God’s work’ paying special attention to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. It’s a pathway that can be carried out in two hours, in four hours or throughout the day (according to time requirements) by parish groups, families, young people, and those in religious life. It can also be an experience of deepening faith in the liturgical life of the church, for priests and other religious.

“I am a Salesian priest and I can assure you that a retreat of this kind was the first for me and certainly unforgettable. The moment of silence and being in touch with nature, helped me to develop my love for nature and for creation. So, in a few words, in silence, we can easily get in touch with God through his creatures who speak to us only when we are open to listening to their message.” (Father Martin Cléophas Kambalenga).

If you wish to experience a moment of grace in the heart of Rome, you can contact the Generalate of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joan Antida Thouret in Rome at the following email contact ([email protected]). 

“The Workshop Retreat day of the Joint Diploma in Integral Ecology had several touching moments. In particular, the celebration of the cosmic liturgy when Father Joshtrom invited those present to contemplate Creation and to find a sign of the presence of God in the great ‘book of Creation’. This moment allowed a true interpenetration of the real in the divine gaze. From there everything could be seen from the divine gaze and perspective. The final delivery of the brick (after the meditation on the tears of creation and the silence in front of the tabernacle) worked as a motivation towards action and allowed me to verbalize and make an effective change. These experiences are linked to the presence of the Spirit and help to establish and concretely give life to orientations and intentions with authenticity. The presence and the meeting of different and multiple voices has certainly enriched the journey. Thanks for the enthusiasm that has filled our hearts “(Ilenia Zuccotto, Ospedaletto Euganeo – PD).

Read about other Sisters of Charity and Friends who are making a difference: 

Join Sr. Saïdé, Sr. Narguis, and Arnaldo in celebrating the Season of Creation.