Sister Margaret Grace Nakafu of Uganda is a member of the Medical Missionaries of Mary. With an academic background in sustainable human development as well as HIV counseling and computer science, she has lived and worked in six countries: Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ireland and Honduras. Currently, she ministers in Honduras, doing parish pastoral work, and advocating for youth, vulnerable families and the elderly.
How are you and/or members of your community promoting the beauty of creation and the care of our common home?
During my school days in Uganda, we carried our lunches wrapped in banana leaves. We reused bottles that originally contained cooking oil to carry our drinking water. In schools where lunch was provided by the school administration, students would bring reusable plates and cups from home. Baskets and bags made of natural materials were used to both carry and store items. These practices, which some might see today as "primitive," give a natural flavor to the food, promote the use of naturally available resources in the cooking and packaging of food, promote the reuse of plastics, and value and preserve natural resources that provide raw materials for handcrafts.
Though even today we still wrap some food in banana leaves for cooking, unfortunately, many of these ecologically sustainable practices are being replaced as we begin to use all sorts of plastics and disposable materials that continue to feed the increasing culture of consumerism.
A story is told of a young man who was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy throwing things into the ocean.
Approaching the boy, he asked: "Young man, what are you doing?"
The boy replied, "Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them back, they'll die."
The man laughed to himself and said, "Do you realize there are miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can't make any difference."
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said: "I made a difference to that one."
In his encyclical Laudato Si', Pope Francis calls us to become aware of and dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and, in so doing, discover what each of us can do about it. Like the young boy in the story, we have dared to let the pain of our Mother Earth penetrate our hearts. We know that a one-minute act makes a difference. Sometimes, it is as simple as saying no to a drinking straw in a restaurant. We are creating awareness and reducing the use of one-use materials.
Here in Honduras, we concretely promote the beauty of creation through:
- Adopting the methodology of the five R's: reducing, refusing, reusing, recycling, reforesting
- In collaboration with our parish and with youth, planting 2,500 pine trees (the national tree of Honduras) in areas where we are assured of their growth
- Making 150 reusable shopping bags bought by families of our parish
- Using our own reusable shopping bags and carrying our drinking water from home
In these small ways, we are promoting the beauty of creation by making a difference.