I am Majella Dogonyaro OP from Nigeria, Western Africa. I am privileged to have been part of the sabbatical programme in The Dominican Ecology Centre, Wicklow Ireland which explores spirituality in the context of an evolving universe, an endangered earth within the Christian tradition.
I benefited so much from this course. I had opportunity to learn about the story of the Universe and I have been exposed to knowing my own connection with Mother Earth. I have become aware of the origin of my existence, a somewhat different story from what I learned as a young person growing up in Nigeria. It is a challenge I must face and take with me as I return to my people. My ten weeks experience presented me with what I call my inward and outward journey of life. I will focus on growing in awareness of my own existence and care for mother earth.
This story depicts my origin which almost threatens the story of Genesis, but I take consolation from these words of Thomas Berry. ‘The story of the universe is a new story. The Genesis story, however valid in its basic teaching, is no longer adequate for our spiritual needs. We cannot renew the world through the genesis story; at the same time we cannot renew the world without the Genesis story.’
Traditionally, our African worship was unique until Christianity and other religions presented us with another phase of worship which personally I appreciated. I think they should also face the challenge to integrate science. ‘For if science is about the world the world that is and religion about the world that ought to be, then religion needs science because we cannot apply God’s will to the world if we do not understand the world.’ Jonathan Sacks, in The Great Partnership, p. 214 This approach seems right for me. If we do not know that the trees and seas are our relations, that we share the same DNA with animals and insects, how can we protect them? In my own country and throughout the planet we destroy our seas, rivers and forests because of greed. We want to satisfy ourselves, at the expense of the creatures that were here before us. The killing of Ken Sara-Wiwa, a Nigerian environmental and human rights activist was greed in action. He spoke publicly about the harm caused by human activity in Niger Delta. His death has deprived us of knowing the truth and acting on it.
My plan when I return to my native Nigeria will be to work on our Dominican Sisters’ farm. It is not organic, but from the knowledge acquired while on the sabbatical programme, I hope to be able gradually to develop an organic farm. We can train all who are interested in taking care of our mother earth. I will demonstrate competency in using material I now know will support and shape our vision and mission. I hope to form a committee that will engage creatively to assess needs, define goals, coordinate resources and evaluate the implementation process. I feel inspired by the words of Pope Francis, ‘Let us become agents of God’s mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.’
Majella Doganyaro OP Nigeria