Fr. Sean McDonagh, a Columban missionary who is known around the world as an eco-theologian who works to raise awareness on the connections between justice and peace issues and environmental sustainability, was recently awarded the Annual Justice Award of the Partnership for Global Justice.
After receiving the award, and participating in two weeks of meetings at the U.N., Fr. Sean traveled to Washington, D.C., to give a presentation on sustainable development. The Missionary Society of St. Columban cosponsored this event with the Center of Concern and Pax Christi USA on May 17, 2011.
Dozens attended to hear Fr. Sean answer the question posed in his presentation, “Is sustainable development possible in our contemporary world?” Among the audience were group leaders, concerned individuals, environmental experts, academics, advocates for peace and justice, priests and religious. Two Columban missionaries also attended the event, Fr. Frank Nally and Fr. Bob Mosher. Current and former Columban Advocacy Interns and CVUSA Volunteers were also in attendance.
Fr. Sean began by speaking about how our culture of consumerism coupled with planned obsolescence is rapidly depleting the earth of its resources. He explained that international development frequently results in spreading this culture of consumerism and consumption of goods to more and more people, as middle classes are developed in countries such as China, India and Brazil. If this reckless use of resources continues unchanged, the ecosystem will be irreversibly devastated, and as Fr. Sean pointed out, banks can be bailed out, but if you destroy an entire ecosystem, no amount of money can bring it back.
Fr. Sean then spoke about how churches can become a major motivating factor in promoting sustainability. He noted that many Christian groups are moving into this field, and referenced statements from Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II which illustrate the moral imperative of living sustainably with a genuine care for creation. Fr. Sean discussed the necessary role the Church must play as a prophetic voice for justice and stated that, “all religions need to challenge the heresy that consumption of goods equals happiness.” He closed by saying that religions must provide the space to discern and celebrate hope, because without hope, we will not be able to move to a better future.
Fr. Sean’s presentation was followed by responses from Center of Concern and Pax Christi representatives, as well as a general question and answer session. The presentation provoked much good discussion and debate, which continued during a celebratory reception in Fr. Sean’s honor.
A full video recording of Fr. Sean’s presentation will be available to view online shortly.