The Notre Dame Eco-Spirituality Center in Gyeyang-gu district of South Korea’s Incheon city has become an embodiment of love and care for the earth that Pope Francis called for in his environmental encyclical Laudato Si, thanks to a group of nuns.
Since last year, the Sisters of Notre Dame here have adopted organic farming methods and an eco-friendly lifestyle to protect the environment from pollution and attain ecological spirituality, the Catholic Times of Korea reported.
The center gets power from a solar power plant and the nuns use organic compost generated from food waste and animal excrement for the plants in the garden.
Its buildings are made of eco-friendly raw materials like soil and rice straw, which in the event of its future demolition will create zero residual waste.
Besides, the nuns harvest rainwater and use the water for consumption after filtering.
All these activities are part of Laudato Si 7-Year Journey Action Plan adopted by the Catholic Church in Korea to implement the spirit of the pope’s ground-breaking apostolic letter of 2015.
Sister Moon Jeom-suk, in charge of education at the center, said that coexistence with God’s creations is inevitable and part of ecological spirituality.
“We confess that we cannot live without the creatures that were created before the human beings created on the last day, and that without God we are nothing,” she said.
She also added that prayer is a particularly important “action” because “life and prayer are not separated.”
Apart from the apostolate based on contemplative prayers, the nuns have used ecological practices to transform their environment. Agriculture takes up a large chunk of the nuns’ efforts to live a sustainable eco-friendly life.
The nuns ensure no waste is generated that can cause pollution. The leftover food is given to domestic animals. The excrement from humans and animals is turned into compost fertilizer to be used in agricultural fields.
They consider waste as “resources” that are recycled in the resource recycling center.
While the nuns use organic compost, they have also avoided any kind of pesticides for the crops and have used natural deterrents to keep any insects away.
“The first thing we need is ecological repentance"
Sister Moon said that the excessive worms that harm the plants are collected and fed to the chickens at the facility.
The nuns have been also conducting an ecological education program for young people to promote an ecological lifestyle.
There are also other religious groups that promote eco-spirituality like Notre Dame nuns.
Father Myung-Hwan Ho from the Franciscan Spirituality Center at Ganghwa says that individuals need to reconnect with creation and God.
“To find the lost spirituality, I must restore the severed relationship between me and myself, me and my neighbor, me and creation, and between me and God,” he said, Catholic Times of Korea reported.
Father Jae-don Lee, director of the Institute of Ecological Spirituality of the Archdiocese of Seoul stressed the need for ecological repentance.
“The first thing we need is ecological repentance, an inner repentance that comes from the depths of your heart,” he said.
In 2021, the Korean Catholic bishops vowed to work at various levels of each diocese, including individuals and institutions, to care for the creation and to relieve the suffering of the poor.
The dioceses have been running regular campaigns to raise ecological awareness and transform public perceptions about the environment based on a range of themes.
The campaigns’ focus areas are sustainable management of transport, energy, water, trees, garbage, and soil.