Saturday, October 7, 2023

Eventful Season of Creation: Spreading Sustainability in all Generations

On September 22, 2023, the collaborative work of UIW, Pax Christi, CCVI JPIC, and Laudato Si Animators continued the UIW tradition of programs for the Season of Creation and encouraging younger students to participate in the Season of Creation.  Previous celebration can be revisited in the Incarnate Word Sisters Justice Peace, and Integrity of Creation blog (

Eighteen high-school students from St. Anthony High School and Incarnate Word High School, and twenty-eight students from pre-K to 8th grade from the UIW Brainpower Connection Schools participated in an art contest, where their art works were displayed in the CHRISTUS Heritage Hall of the Village at Incarnate Word, a retirement community home next to the university and another sponsored ministry of the Incarnate Word Sisters.

A big thanks to Dr. John Hooker, Dr. Benjamin Miele, Ms. Patricia Ramirez, Mr. Daniel Potter, Sr. Martha Ann Kirk, Laudato Si Animators, the UIW community, the Incarnate Word Sisters, and Texas Pax Christi, who made the eco-pilgrimage possible. Dr. Carlos Garcia, MSE Dean, provided transportation for the high school students.  UIW Medical Health’s Dr. Shaylon Rettig, Mission, and Ministry’s Ms. Beth Villareal, Headwaters’ Sr. Cindy Stacy, Ettling Center, and Sustainability Department’s Dr. Ricardo Gonzalez and Teofilo Reyes also contributed to bringing their juicy ideas and background works to celebrate UIW’s Season of Creation.  The team promotes sustainability, raising awareness of our own contributions and responsibility to care for the Earth.  To hold this outdoor event without any bottled water being used, we gave the students reusable water bottles from the beginning of the pilgrimage, reminding participants that the UIW campus is surrounded by water refilling stations in each of the buildings. 

The team started as early as 7am getting ready with the resources and preparing for what the day would bring. The eco-tour started at 9am and ended at 11am. We had four groups of high-school students led by Arthur, Sr. Christi, Maria, and UIW student Jessica Solomon.  Everyone was given a pilgrimage guide containing facts, quotes, and prayers or reflections related to pilgrimage, community gardens, the pollinator garden, the solar house, artworks, Headwaters, and the Blessing of the Animals. The event only featured four of these while the Blessing of the Animals was scheduled for October 3. The Headwaters Sanctuary was not covered by the event but is open to the public.  It is adjacent to the UIW campus and offers nature trails and the Blue Hole, making it a popular spot for outdoor education, reflection, hiking, and volunteer works for the preservation of native plants and species.

Everyone joyously celebrated the season with all the eco-friendly and sustainable gifts they can bring home and talk about after the end of their pilgrimage.  Apart from the reusable water bottles, other eco gifts were given after answering questions about the tour.  The students had a chance to have reusable utensil kits, native seeds, reusable water bottles, and some biodegradable toothbrushes (including biodegradable bristles, yes!).  Some cheerfully received extra gifts after answering questions on sustainable habits and were given eco-friendly friendship bands that were personally crafted by Maria Trevino and Sr. Marylou. The friendship bands included sustainability pledges such as “I will use reusable water bottles (instead of bottled water)”, “I will plant and care for a tree”, “I will turn off the faucet when not in use”, “I will start a pollinator garden” and many others. 

Sustainability is visible in the UIW campus, being part of the Laudato Si Action Platform.  The practice of sustainability is still growing and that is the point. Sustainability is an ongoing process with an invitation to what individuals and the collective society are already able to do and what else can be done to further lessen our carbon footprint and promote a more sustainable lifestyle.

One of the pilgrimage stops is the Art Exhibit in CHRISTUS Heritage Hall, which is part of the Village Retirement structure. The youth get to see the creativity of the pre-K to the middle schoolers.  We received 28 entries, thanks to the administrators and faculty of St. Mary Magdalen Catholic School, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Schools, and St. Anthony Catholic School.  Winners won gift cards for the artists and a fund to improve their school community garden. Throughout the day, the Village residents and staff were able to see the artworks, which inspired much curiosity and pondering.

Redemption (6th - 8th grade First Place)
Left: redemption (6th -8th First Place)

As the last activity of the Season of Creation, Sr. Martha Ann, Dr. Darlene Carbajal of the UIW Communication Arts Department, Darlene Jasso and Edwin Mendoza, founders of the Little Angels of Mary in Guatemala  facilitated the Annual Blessing of the Animals at Our Lady’s Grotto on October 3 at  6 pm.  This has been a tradition for more than forty years.  Dogs from small, medium, and large, pictures of cats, squirrels, and dogs, and animal stuffed toys paraded the seats of the Grotto. Annually the gathering has begun with “Sacred Creation,” a version of St. Francis’ “Canticle of Creation” which was set to music by Bro. Rufino Zaragoza, OFM with all incarnating the prayer.

Catherine Cuasay, Expressive Arts Therapist, led music for this and “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.” On this Vigil of the Feast of Saint Francis, we reflected on his love for nature. Each of the animals’ names was mentioned, and all sang together “May God bless you,” as the animals were sprinkled with water, a symbol of life.  The owners were able to celebrate the friendship and accompaniment that these humble creatures have provided for them and similarly, the animals had a great time seeing their fellows.  Everybody had a chance to smile while some had a memory of their four-footed pets.  We are also aware that we are outside surrounded by trees where there are birds, squirrels, crickets, and other animals who are celebrating that eventful occasion.

As we enjoy the milder temperature of the fall season, let us not forget that the Care of Creation is an ongoing process that we can practice all throughout the year.  We invite you to reflect on what sustainability means and what you can advocate for by living it and breathing it as part of your lifestyle. 

Left: Sr. Martha Ann with Darlene and Edwin, founders of Little Angels of Guatemala, UIW students, two pets, and Sr. Christi and Sr. Carmen                                                                                                            

Other Winning Art Pieces (from top to bottom): Waterway Peace (3rd - 5th grade category first place), Co-Creators (Pre-K - 2nd grade category first place)

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