For two weeks this summer, Columbans who work on justice and peace issues from around the world will gather in Ireland, at the Burren in County Clare. While there, they will study the unique geology, plant and animal life in the region, as well as the human connections with it. Participants will spend time in lectures and field studies to fully experience the ecology of the Burren. They will also take part in group discussions and brainstorming sessions about current JPIC issues. Representing the U.S. region at this gathering will be two young adults: Brett Garland, a student at the Catholic University of America, and a former Columban intern, and Tracey Horan, a teacher in an El Paso school.
This blog will document Brett & Tracey’s experience in Ireland, with reflections on what they are learning and photos of the unique and beautiful landscape of the Burren. Here are some of Tracey’s thoughts as she prepares to partake on this journey – stay tuned for regular updates from Tracey and Brett!
Appreciating God’s Creation
Tracey Horan, Burren Study Week Participant
“There must be new contact between men and the earth; the earth must be newly seen and heard and felt and smelled and tasted.” -Wendell Berry
Since I became involved in the River Stewards Program at the University of Dayton my sophomore year, I began to see the place I lived more clearly. My eyes were more able to focus on the beauty of the river, my ears more ready to hear the sounds of birds and bugs, my hands more eager to reach out and grasp a tree branch. I began to build a sense of place and recognize the damage that can be done when individuals become so disconnected from the natural resources they enjoy on a daily basis – with or without their knowledge. I consider myself very blessed to have been a part of an Institute that works to build community through appreciation of and care for God’s gifts in nature. Since graduating from UD in May 2010, I have become an Associate in Community with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati moved into their community in near El Paso, TX, where I teach middle school math at a local Catholic school. I have continued to live with an appreciation for God’s creation that has been renewed by the beauty of the mountains and the miraculous resilience of desert life. Still, I find myself searching for a concrete “niche” into which my passion for living lightly on and with Earth might fit. Inspired by the simple living efforts of Columban Father Bill Morton and the emphasis the Columban community places on environmental justice, I hope to emerge from the Burren experience with new eyes; eyes that see opportunities to invite members of my school and broader community to a more creative existence with our Earth.