Welcome to a page that offers our reflections on taking our WORK TO THE GLOBAL COMMUNITY re: earth and cosmic consciousness.

Reflections on a Month with the Spirit of Ecuador

by Maureen Wild, SC, and Paula Gonzalez, SC

Paula Gonzalez, SC, and Maureen Wild, SC

Several invitational, encouraging and supportive factors aligned themselves prior to a cross-cultural and educational adventure in Ecuador that was shared with Sister Paula Gonzalez, SC, translator and travel companion.

The first came as a formal invitation from the Executive Director of the Pro Bosque Fondacíon (Pro Forest Foundation) of Guayaquil, Eric Horstman.
He and I had met in Oregon in 2007 at a 30-day training program in Deep Ecology. Eric was keen to have me guide programs about the New Cosmology and on The Earth Charter, and hosted at Cerro Blanco (Pro Bosque’s ecology centre and site of over 14,000 acres of protected tropical forest and reforestation project just outside of Guayaquil).

A second encouragement came via a link through the Sisters of Earth network.
A Franciscan Sister in the US linked me to missionary, Sr. Joan Gerads, OSF, based in Quito and active in spiritual formation work throughout Ecuador. Joan was delighted with the possibility of a program in spiritual ecology (Spirituality of Earth and Cosmos within a Christian context) in Quito, for the Franciscan Associates in Ecuador. [Note: In 2007, S. Joan attended the Spiritual Directors’ International Conference in Vancouver with its theme on Spirituality and the Cosmos and guest presenter Brian Swimme. Since then she had hoped for ways to bring this context to people in Ecuador. Grace was at work to bring about this convergence of interest and possibility.]

Sister Joan Gerads, OSF, in Quito writes:

“The idea grew to include people from the Base Church Communities who also see Care of the Environment as a ministry for all conscientious people. Organization for the program was assumed by a Foundation that promotes the Base Church Communities, and attended by over eighty enthusiastic participants. (Franciscan Associates, leaders in the Base Church Communities, catechetical and theological instructors, religious educators, students, and the general public.)
Results of the program in Quito were numerous. People asked for the PowerPoint materials prepared by Maureen so they could continue educating people in their spheres to the beauty and the importance of creation. One gentleman is determined to begin an “Ecumenical Community” to promote love, respect and care for the earth, the environment, peoples and all of creation.
It was a day of awe, respect, joy, love and prayer.”

A grant from the Sisters of Charity (Halifax) Global Connections Program enabled this Ecuador experience.
This was an essential need and great blessing. In exchange for the program offerings, hospitality was provided by S. Joan in her Quito residence (a church-owned house named in honour of ‘Brother Sun and Sister Moon’); and later by Pro Bosque – Cerro Blanco near Guayaquil. Here, we stayed in an eco-cabin constructed with bamboo, thatched roof, and solar panel for electricity.

The programs in both locations were very well received.
Translation support of written materials had already begun months before the travel and these were further improved in Ecuador. In both Quito and Guayaquil, we were blessed with extraordinary translation service for the more spontaneous dimensions of the presentations.

Paula Gonzalez, SC, offers these comments (in italics):

“It’s been a providential three weeks in Ecuador!

Maureen provided great programs for over 100 Ecuadorians in Quito and Guayaquil. (It is quite a daring feat to give programs in another language!) Many eyes have been opened to a more expansive vision of the amazing reality in which we live (so often without even beginning to appreciate the wonder of it all). The concept of ‘ecospirituality’ may have been new, but the almost immediate connection that people experienced was evident. They “got it”! Seeing the profound interconnectedness of all that exists reminds us about relationships – with God, with the rest of our 6.5 billion human sisters and brothers, and with all our other-than-human relatives ---- the oceans, mountains, deserts, forests, and the other living beings which call Earth ‘home’.

In Quito, the day’s participants were all Catholics. This made her exposition of “Ecological Christianity” particularly rich, especially right before Lent. First, people were invited to consider the instinct for life found throughout the natural world. They could contemplate the deep connections that enable us to understand that we are all part of the magnificent process God has chosen to use in creating the Universe. How do you think our worldviews would shift if we really realized (as the Earth Charter so beautifully states) that each of us is “part of a vast, evolving universe”? The reverent way Maureen narrates the Cosmic Story was very inspiring to the groups both at Quito and Guayaquil.

The second aspect was a look at how our natural instinct for life is being lost (i.e. as humans in relationship to the creation). This sentences both our devastated planet and its peoples to a greatly diminished future, both materially and spiritually. The damage and pollution that are occurring in the tar sands of Alberta were particularly striking examples of the disconnection and irreverence we have learned to take for granted in the industrialized world.

The programs on the New Cosmology then explored the wisdom now being gathered from many sources. These can awaken humans to both the possibilities and benefits of transforming our values and lifestyles. Thomas Berry reminds us that there are four major ‘Scriptures’ we must read:
1) the Cosmic Scriptures,
2) the Scriptures of Human Cultures (their History and Wisdom)
3) the Written Scriptures of World Religions
4) the Scriptures of the Human Heart.”

In Quito, after the program, the organizing team (all members of a diocesan religious education foundation) took us out for some nourishment in a lovely café.
The Director proceeded to do an evaluation with us about the event (i.e with all at the table) ... asking of each one: “How did you experience this event as the work of God?” And, he took notes! They were genuinely moved and inspired by the breadth of the spiritual context they each received.

Then it was off on a twelve-hour bus trip from Quito, through the Andes, avoiding mudslides, scaling to colder altitudes, then descending to finally reach a growing area of banana trees, pineapples and rice fields. It was so interesting to experience the diverse topography, and see the indigenous people (Quichua) working in their fields, carrying their loads, selling produce along the roadside, seeing the simple dwellings and animals grazing nearby.
And then the shock of the extreme poverty nearer Guayaquil – massive numbers of rural people who left their areas to inhabit (invade) lands on the edge of the city … living in hovels, with rudimentary infrastructure of roads and waterworks, poor sanitation, and yet seeming to self-organize for survival.

(Paula continues] “At Cerro Blanco, near Guayaquil, we experienced a wonderful project. Over 40 employees – and many volunteers – do reforestation and guide tours and hikes throughout this large ‘dry tropical forest.’ We got to know many of the warm, wonderful people who are engaged in “protecting the forest”. The day on the Earth Charter was of great interest to participants, none of whom had ever heard of this important document. Looking at “Values and Principles for a Sustainable Future” – (the subtitle of the Charter) – can help motivate each of us and the groups to which we belong to realize the responsibilities that our times place in our hands.”

Executive Director, Eric Horstman, of the Pro Bosque - Cerro Blanco writes:
"After participating in The Cosmic Walk with Maureen in the 30 day Joanna Macy retreat, a seed was planted in me that led to my participating in a Immersion In The New Cosmology course with Sister Miriam MacGillis at Genesis Farm. I realized that although I had worked many years in conservation work in the country of Ecuador, that I myself was not fully aware of my place in the universe. I have worked to allow the deep and profound teachings of Father Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme to seep into my inner consciousness and give me the strength to continue on. I also realized that these teachings have not been brought to the country of Ecuador, and thanks to the Maureen Wild and Paula Gonzalez, we were able to once again, plant a seed. I have spoken with some of the participants in the Guayaquil part of the course and everyone was happy and inspired and have asked for copies of the materials on the New Cosmology and Earth Charter. Thank you Maureen and Paula from the bottom of my heart."

Once programs were completed, Paula and I had an opportunity to see a few sites in the Guayaquil area.
One of them was a school in a poor barrio of Duran. Paula had come with a donation for this school. Named after Elizabeth Seton, it was founded twenty years ago by a married couple. They literally built the school from the foundation up with their own resources and from the generosity of others. (A Sister of Charity of Cincinnati, who had served in Duran for almost thirty years, had been a friend to them.) Their school now serves over 500 students.

Pictures of the Quito, Guayaquil and Duran area can be viewed at:

Paula needed to return to Cincinnati while I took the opportunity to launch off from Guayaquil for the Galapagos Islands for a few days. A celebration of life, biodiversity, evolutionary stories of islands forming and species developing … what a fabulous experience that was for me! See pictures of the Galapagos experience at: http://ecopaparazzi.ning.com/photo/photo/slideshow?albumId=2371968:Album:17778

March 2009