Toronto’s Sisters of St. Joseph marked World Ocean Day June 8, hosting an event to raise awareness about the environmental crisis faced by our oceans. CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

In solidarity with our oceans

By 
  • June 6, 2013

TORONTO - The Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto are celebrating World Ocean Day to raise awareness about the environmental damage being done to our oceans.

On June 8, the UN-designated day, the sisters were to host “Come, Holy Spirit: A Ritual of Hope for a Planet in Crisis on World Ocean Day” at the Mary Ward Centre at Loretto College Residence, part of the University of St. Michael’s College.

“The planet is in crisis right now,” said Leah Watkiss, program director of the sister’s Ministry for Social Justice, Peace and Care of Earth.

“The livelihood of our planet depends on the health of our ocean. We need it to produce a lot of oxygen. It helps to feed us, it cleans the water we drink, it makes up 99 per cent of our planet’s living space and it’s under threat right now,” said Watkiss. “Warming temperatures, increasing acidification, overfishing (and) pollution are just a few of the threats that are facing the ocean right now. So it’s really critical that we raise awareness about what’s happening to our global ocean, and we encourage people to take action to help protect it.”

The ritual was to have three main movements, the first being a “lament” where the destruction that has happened to the ocean and is still ongoing is acknowledged. Next, the ritual tried to instil hope through faith and solutions to the crisis.

The third section of the ritual was likened to a commissioning where participants were sent forth to take action to aid in protecting our oceans.

“We’re trying to pick up on some of the Pentecostal themes of the commissioning and sending forth, speaking truth to power,” Watkiss said.

The ritual incorporated elements of First Nations spirituality through music and prayer with the help of First Nations musician Diem Lafortune, also known as Mama D Horizon Dancer.

“We want to acknowledge that the First Nations people were the first people who were on this land and they have always had a huge concern and care for the Earth,” said Watkiss, adding that the opening prayer was in the First Nations’ practice of four directions and that some prayer involved the traditional First Nations herb tobacco.

Yvonne Prowse, spiritual director and retreat director at the Guelph Ignatius Jesuit Centre, was scheduled as guest speaker.

“She’s been very, very involved in justice, peace and environmental ministry,” said Watkiss, who sits on an ecology committee with some of the sisters.

“The generation of today... we’re going to go down in the history books in one of two ways I think, and we have to choose which way we want to go down,” said Watkiss.

“We’ll go down either as the generation who stood up and said we realize what we’re doing is destroying the environment and we’re going to take action to protect and safeguard the environment for future generations, or we’re going to go down in history as the generation who knew that our actions were destroying the planet, but we sat back and did nothing.”

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