Mercy Global Concern

Some Thoughts on ‘Our Emerging Story – The Promise and the Hope‘ by Sharon Zayac OP

Reports: June 20, 2017

Editor: Denise Boyle fmdm, Team Leader Mercy Global Action, attended a day of reflection on 3 June at An Tairseach (The Threshold) Dominican Farm and Ecology Centre, Wicklow, Ireland, given by Sharon Zayac OP.  Sr Sharon (Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois, USA.) is the Director of Jubilee Farm, her congregation’s 111-acre centre for ecology and spirituality. She writes, lectures and gives retreats, her passion being sharing the Universe story and its implications for life and faith. 

In this item Sr Denise shares some of her thoughts about her learnings at the reflection day.

'Human- Becomings:

The central theme of this enlightening workshop with Sharon Zayac OP is that we are in the midst of a cosmic shift, in terms of understanding who we are as persons, as people of faith and as a human species. This emerging consciousness is teaching us more about how we are related to the whole and significantly how we speak about God, in the context of the Cosmic Story...'

Linked with the accepted fact that the earth is both material and spiritual, there is a growing awareness that we are not standing on solid ground, because we are living in a dynamic and changing universe. Sharon developed this theme in a simple yet profound manner. She believes that the term ‘human beings’ does not adequately state who we are, preferring to use the term ‘human-becomings’ who are moving forward, through local and global living into our true selves. This, she said, is happening in the context of the evolutionary process. It was Teilhard de Chardin who said context is everything, hence the need for us to connect into this and with it, because evolution IS the entire story.

Desmond Tutu uses the term ‘Ubuntu’ an African term referring to oneness i.e. because I’m human I belong, and therefore I am in relation with everyone and everything. In her TED talk, ‘Unlock the Intelligence, Passion and Greatness of Girls’, Leymah Gbowee, a Nobel Peace Prize winner spoke of Ubuntu as encompassing ‘I am what I am, because of who we all are’. This connectedness through relationship, leads into a sense of belonging. In sum, this is the cosmic universe story, an ongoing evolution that connects everything in a relational manner.

The Spirit - Integral Ecology:

Our workshop was held on the eve of Pentecost. Sharon, in referring to this, shared an insight of Elizabeth Johnson CSJ in Ask the Beasts’ who wrote that the Spirit is constantly calling the universe to become, and is present with all of creation throughout the process of evolving and becoming.

This brought to mind one of the wide-spread consequences of Pope Francis’ ground breaking encyclical on the environment ‘Laudato Si – On Care of Our Common Home’ whereby globally there is a growing understanding of the concept of ‘integral ecology’. The term refers to the close relationship between living organisms and the environment. For some, this symbolises a new paradigm of justice, because if we believe in “our unique place as human beings in this world and our relationship to our surroundings” (L.S.15) then we must take seriously our responsibility to protect and preserve all of Earth. This new way of thinking is replacing the long-held belief that Earth is there for us to use, take from or exploit, even destroy, as we consider ourselves to be the most important element in it!

UN Environment Day:

Two days after the workshop, on 5 June  the world marked UN World Environment Day, with the theme this year: ‘Connecting People to Nature’. The idea was to encourage everyone to go outdoors, to enjoy nature, appreciate its beauty and be grateful for the ways in which “nature provides physical sustenance, plus the opportunity for intellectual, moral, social and spiritual growth.” (Notes for UN Environment Day) The hope is that through getting in touch with the natural world, we will better understand our interconnectedness with all of nature and respond to the global call, to ‘tread gently’ on this planet upon which we are so dependent.

Picking up a similar theme that Pope Francis wrote about in ‘Laudato Si’, UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres said: ‘Without a healthy environment we cannot end poverty or build prosperity.’ Guterres believes each person has a role to play, to ensure the protection of our common home. He suggests we do this by using less plastic, driving less, not wasting food and teaching everyone to care for this beautiful world that is ours!

Creation is a Verb!

During the workshop, Sharon emphasised that creation is an ongoing happening, therefore it is a verb! Globally everything is evolving, hence the need to embrace the reality of cosmic evolution. In this context, our lives have a universal meaning, so ‘adulthood’ for Sharon, means moving into something bigger than ourselves, corroborating her statement that we are ‘human-becomings’. God is present to us throughout this process in the mode of promise. Change and promise negate the notion of a ‘status quo’.

Focussing on humans, we were reminded that from the moment of conception each human has within her or him, the story of creation that reflects the evolving Earth, from the simplest organism to the most complex. As we grow in awareness of unfolding ‘evolutionary consciousness’ and because nothing is ever finished or completed it becomes clear there is no such thing as perfection! This evokes questions about ‘absolutes’ in the light of creation always changing and becoming. The element of mystery and the Divine is integral to this process, as Teilhard de Chardin captures beautifully: “Evolution is a light illuminating all facts” , which for him includes the Universe and its relationship with God. Confirming the divine element is a sense that within us, we are all capable of intuiting relationship at the deepest level.

A slide showing a close up of three photos exemplified this: the vein structure of a single leaf, the vein network in a human, and the river network system of the Amazon in South America. The striking similarity between all three was quite extraordinary! As we sat in silence looking at the slide, Thomas Berry’s statement was apt: “....the universe, by definition is a single gorgeous celebratory event... The only response is to stand in awe” (‘The Dream of the Earth’, 5).


In response to a question about environmental disasters Sharon said she believes new life emerges out of the violence of volcanoes, hurricanes and tsunamis. We can make sense of these phenomena, if we accept that order comes out of chaos, as it has throughout time.

It is impossible to do justice to Sharon’s ability to share profound truths related to evolutionary consciousness in a simple, comprehensive manner. To précis a comment from one of her students, these truths lead us out of ourselves into a bigger story, a bigger planet and a bigger God! The gentle challenge Sharon left us with, is to do what we know we need to do! Through embracing my responsibility, I / we will facilitate the ‘flourishing of ALL LIFE that leads to being wholly in union with our God...’

Messages to: Denise Boyle fmdm - Team Leader Mercy Global Action

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