Ecological Concerns in the Major Seminaries In India
November 8-13, 2010, Ajmer, Rajasthan
Over 50 members of the Association of Rectors of Major Seminaries of India (ARMS) had their annual meeting in Ajmer, Rajasthan, from November 8-13, 2010, during which they reflected and deliberated upon the theme, “ECOLOGICAL CONCERNS IN PRIESTLY FORMATION IN INDIA”. It may be mentioned that Major Seminaries offer usually three years of studies in Philosophy and four years of studies in Theology which is a pre-requisite for becoming a Catholic/Christian priest.
The Co-ordinator of Tarumitra, Fr. Robert Athickal was the resource person for the two-day reflections on environment. Using PowerPoint presentations Fr. Robert offered an array of information from ecological crisis to eco-theology. “ It was indeed a turning point in the life of every one of us in our relationship and approach towards nature, earth and life itself” said the President of the Association, Fr. Prashant Pinto.
“In the context of the ecological crisis we are brought to a heightened awareness about the need to protect the earth and life in it in various forms. Certainly this calls for urgent response from everyone concerned, the whole humanity. We all belong to one cosmic family and the realization that we all are interconnected gives us a sense of belonging to one another and to the cosmos. The universe is not a collection of objects, it is a communion of subjects” said the Rectors.
The meeting place, the state of Rajasthan, has also specially contributed to their awareness about the need to protect the earth. They undertook two days of exposure into the Thar desert of Rajasthan and its surroundings. The eco-friendly and simple life style of the people in these areas struggling to cope with the extreme conditions of desert convinced them about the urgency to protect the earth at all cost.
The gathering came up with a whole set of very practical suggestions as what could be done back in their Seminaries. Some of them are as follows:
I. Personal level
1. Eco-friendly gifts to friends and benefactors.
2. Avoid private cars and motor-cycles.
3. Reduce use of electricity, water, fuel and food.
4. Use natural drinks and avoid multinational drinks.
II. Seminary level
1. Develop herbal gardens.
2. Move towards a plastic free campus.
3. Avoid Styrofoam/thermocol for decorations.
4. Avoid elaborate electrical illuminations for feast days.
5. Introduce Light Emitting Diodes (LED) lights.
6. Segregate bio-degradable and non-bio-degradable waste and make compost out of bio-degradable waste.
7. Start vermi-culture for natural manure and go for organic farming.
8. Introduce solar-cookers, heaters and panels for electricity.
9. Make a plot available for “Franciscan forests”.
10. Organize eco-theology and eco-spirituality courses for the community members.
11. Display environment friendly “thoughts for the day”
12. Avoid use and throw materials.
13. Organize eco-liturgies to welcome the seasons of the year.
14. Encourage members of the community to write on issues related to ecology.
15. Start rain water harvesting and watershed programmes.
16. Introduce nature walks and nature meditations.
17. Go for eco-friendly picnics.
18. Organize tours to nearby forests and learn the names of the trees and plants.
19. Prohibit burning of dry leaves.
20. Plant as many trees as possible. Organize tree plantation programmes.
21. Encourage one hour of manual work for all the staff and students of the seminary.
III Diocese/Province level
1. Train personnel to give eco-spirituality workshops.
2. Make eco-sensitivity an important part of formation programme.
3. Encourage study of Scriptures (Bible and Indian) and teachings of the Church to understand the roots of eco-friendly living.
4. Join hands with NGOs and Churches movements.
5. Organize farmers to take up organic farming.
6. Encourage research and use of alternate energy.
7. Learn from local tribal groups to live eco-friendly life.
8. Develop eco-theology and eco-spirituality.
9. Motivate youth, women and children to preserve and promote environment. E.g. plant more trees, family vegetable garden.
10. Encourage eco- healing as a stepping stone to communal healing.
IV Institutional level
1. Herbal garden for every formation house.
2. Celebrate environmental day.
3. Motivate students regarding eco-friendly living.
4. Naming and appreciation for the trees in the campus.
5. Conduct Eco-liturgies.
6. Eco-exhibitions in our schools and parishes.
7. Celebrate festivals in eco-friendly manner (Deevali, Rakhi, Holi, Onam, Pongal, Dussera, etc.)
8. Organize eco-friendly activities and motivational seminars for the youth, children and women around, thus involving community around in our eco-friendly interventions