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“…committed to listening, life-long learning, prayer and action.”

General Chapter 2007

Volume 1 – Issue 1 May 2009

Our Reflections on Water

paxssmn@gmail.com For thus says the LORD, "Behold, I extend peace like a river, And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream. Is 66: 12 Dear Sister-Antennas of the SSMN International J&P Network:

Justice & Peace Network

International

SISTERS OF SAINT MARY OF NAMUR

When we asked you to jot down some re flections on WATER – in observance of the U.N. Annual Day of Water- we hardly expected such rich responses from you! So now, in the midst of this Easter Season, when we are blessed with the living waters that flow from the Pascal Mystery, we are happy to share with you some of your thoughts on water, and your observations on its importance in faith rituals and in human life. We found certain recurring themes in your notes, and have arranged the contributions within those categories.

I. Wonder and Awe "In Canada, water is truly a compelling part of who we are. All our geography in the East revolves around the great St. Lawrence River, which is our landmark and reference point. Canada holds 1/5 of the world’s fresh water“... (Canada) “Water - our life, our joy and our culture- Water inspires our artists and our writers. It is a part of our religious practices. Water is present within all our history. ....The Democratic Republic of Congo contains a large portion of the fresh water of the world." (Congo) “In the western part of Rwanda, Lake Kivu runs from north to south through the whole country. With the hills which surround it, this region is a real tourist attraction. In Kibuye the beauty is difficult to describe. This tourism is of real financial benefit to the country." (Rwanda)

“Three major rivers run through Belgium, fifty or more smaller rivers, and multiple streams. From commercial routes to lovely valleys, there is much to discover." (Belgium) “South Carolina has a wonderful coast by the Atlantic Ocean…It was wonderful living in Myrtle Beach for three years and just walking one block everyday to eat lunch by the ocean, or watching the sunrise every morning.” (Buffalo) (From a candidate in Texas, who spent the first 19 years of her life on the island of Tonga, in a home just a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean) - “…Water is one of the most important things in our world. Without water, plants would die, people and animals would go thirsty, and nothing would go right in our world.” (Texas)


II. Geography and History We were reminded (or learned ) of the names of Rivers and Bodies of water that play crucial roles in the lives of our sisters: The Sambre and the Meuse. The St. Lawrence River, the Trinity, the Jitituba, the Niagara, the Reedy, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Lake Kivu, the Erie Canal, the Atlantic Ocean, the Ozama, the Isabela, the Yaque del Norte, the Caribbean Sea, Cattaraugus Creek.

SISTERS OF SAINT MARY OF NAMUR

“Mother Claire established several communities in “In the Buffalo, Western New York area, we are the Sambre-Meuse basin, a call resonating in the blessed with an abundance of water- the Niagara Church at the time to help River flowing over the Falls, two of the Great working families, to Lakes- Erie and Ontario, the Erie Canal, and Mother Claire could take a educate their children and other smaller bodies of water.” (Buffalo) boat at Namur and visit a give them skills and number of communities. opportunities for "Drought is almost part of the Dominican progress. Mother Claire could take a boat at Patrimony. The 10 months of the dry season are Namur and visit a number of communities.” particularly harsh for the people and for the (Belgium) economy, since it is agriculture which suffers the most." (Dominican Republic)

III. Where our Water Comes From “In Rwanda water is a serious problem. There are many springs but these are very far from the houses, and the water isn't purified. You have to boil it before drinking it, but people don't do this each time because firewood isn't easy to come by. Consequently people develop worms, dysentery or typhoid fever.” (Rwanda) “Unfortunately, the majority of the people of the D.R.C. have no access to potable water, especially inhabitants of big cities. Women and children must walk long distances to look for this life-giving drink " (Congo) “We count on our water to be clean when it comes from our faucet. Our water is pumped from reservoirs that have been built by damming rivers; these reservoirs collect water for the use of local inhabitants (after it is cleaned), as well as for agriculture and industrial uses. Often the water is pumped from hundreds of miles away to the cities which use it. Texas has only one natural lake in the

whole state; all the others are artificially constructed. (Texas) “People here just know the water comes from the water faucet! We’re lucky that the water we drink is safe, as far as we know, and actually tastes quite good. Rarely do we have a problem that stops our supply for any length of time. There are still some small, poor towns in S. Caroline and Georgia, where everyone doesn’t have running water. In Gifford, S.C. for example, where our Sisters used to be, some people still only have well water.” (Buffalo) “In Flexieras our tap water comes from a reservoir several miles from a forested area. Even though the city is growing and more people are using more water, the authorities say that with normal rain


there is more than enough water in the reservoir to supply the population adequately. The problem is that the pipes which bring the water to the city are of PVBC and have been in place for many years. So when the water pressure is strong, the pipes crack, cutting off the water supply…” (Brazil)

SISTERS OF SAINT MARY OF NAMUR

“Il belge…" -That's the expression our American Sisters use when living in Belgium through days when it rains morning to night.…These rains nourish the subterranean aquifers which furnish 2/3rds of the water distributed in Belgium. The remaining reserves come from surface water, lakes and bodies of water which obviously must be carefully filtered and disinfected before drinking. Water can be drunk from the faucet, even if many persons only drink bottled water.“ (Belgium)

“Our aqueduct system enables access to potable water for everyone via our faucets." (Canada) "In the U.K. we do enjoy instant safe water into our homes. Without a doubt we waste a vast amount and have come to expect a very high level of demand. For the last two years, the old 'wet British weather' is back. So plenty of full reservoirs, rivers and underground lakes now. Carrying a plastic water bottle is a fashion item over here, very trendy!" (U.K.) "In the D.R., 20% of the population - 465,000 families - lack water or have no access to water that is piped in, thus affecting more than 1.8 million men and women. This explains the high level of infant mortality in the poorest communities, where potable water is not available. Nearly 97.5% of the water is salty; only 2.5 % is fresh." (Dom. Rep.)

IV. Costs “When we receive the water bill, we pay for the necessary services and infrastructures needed to capture, filtrate, reserve and deliver the water. Thus through the years, the price of water keeps rising. The Bill also includes contributions to a fund which helps people with financial difficulties.” (Belgium)

for many years. We had to go fetch water from a spring that was very far from the house. For several years now, with the help of benefactors, we have been able to harness the spring, but in order for the water to reach us, we must use a pump and gas, which causes the endeavor to be quite costly. In Mubuga we don't have available water on the property either. There is a source at some “Searching for water is part of the rhythm of life for distance, and it must be regularly maintained . This thousands of Congolese women who must get up water isn't purified . When it rains the water early each day to fetch water. Many return with becomes very dirty. In order to drink it , it must be water which isn't clean enough to drink, and boiled, strained, and Searching for water is part of the thus causes sicknesses. There are still people filtered. In Mubuga, rhythm of life for thousands of in Kinshasha who drink water from wells, besides the Sisters who Congolese women who must get even though water must be potable to truly use the spring, there is up early each day to fetch water. "give life". Thus the importance of efforts a parish, another concerning sanitary education and water religious community, the health center, a high purification. (Congo) school, a primary school and part of the local population - all who draw water from this source. “In the cities water is treated, but its costly. In our In Kigali, the sisters get water from the city, and it is house in Kiruhura, we didn't have water on our land purified, but often not available. When it isn't, the


sisters have to go buy it in another part of the city. This isn't easy because they don't have a car. (Rwanda)

invest the money necessary. So I guess the situation will have to get worse before they decide to fix it. “ (Brazil)

“Each household pays a monthly bill to the city, which includes charges for water used and sewage disposed of, as well as charges for the city to pick up garbage at each house. A chart is sent along with the bill, which shows the usage of water for that month, so that a household can control its water usage if they choose to be conscious of it. The local municipality owns the water utility. (Texas)

"We pay water rates either at a fixed rate or on a meter. Cost, while not cheap, is reasonable considering how much we demand." (U.K.)

SISTERS OF SAINT MARY OF NAMUR

“..When the water pipes crack, cutting off the water supply…we are without water for two or three days until they can replace the pipe and re-establish the water supply. Luckily we have gutters and barrels to collect rainwater, and sometimes this is very useful. The solution would be to replace the plastic pipes with metal ones, but neither the town government nor the company responsible for water wants to

"In the D.R. there is inequality, even in the utilisation of potable water. The poorest of the population drink water from the faucet (which is neither filtered nor potable); the middle class buys potable water; and the upper class has the means to buy mineral water to drink. A number of businesses have figured out how to profit from this, and have developed a water market." (Dom. Rep.)

V. Threats to our Water “ In Rwanda, as elsewhere, the seasons have become irregular. There are years when it hardly rains during the rainy season. The result is famine. It just shows again that water is a real problem in Rwanda..” (Rwanda)

“Presently Texas is in the midst of a drought. Many of the reservoirs are already low, even in springtime, when there is usually more rain. The Trinity River flows through Ft. Worth and Dallas, on its way to the sea, 500 miles to the South. For too many years it was ignored, and used only as a “disposal of waste”. It was inaccessible to For too many years, the citizens, quasi-invisible. Now there is growing river was ignored, and attention to the River as a gift, as a treasure used only as a “disposal to be protected and loved. For too long we of waste”. have just ‘taken water for granted.” (Texas)

“In March 2009, UNICEFBelgium began a new Campaign on the theme of access to potable water and to hygiene, reminding us that one child dies each 20 seconds in the world, due to a lack of potable water. The theme of the Campaign is: "Each Drop Counts." (Belgium)

“An immense consumer of potable water is the industry which is mining oil from the sands of Western Canada. Many environmental groups are encouraging the government to stop exploiting this source of oil which is extremely polluting to produce. (Canada)

"For the longer term, Canada fears that with the scarcity of water on the planetary scale, the Arctic reserves could become the object of claims, jalousies and quarrels. The future of peace for our country will pass through finding a solution that allows each country to support its needs for potable water, without having to draw on non-renewable reserves. As a matter of fact, with climate change upon us, the glaciers are disappearing before our very eyes."(Canada)


SISTERS OF SAINT MARY OF NAMUR

“In the last few years, we have had a number of very destructive floods, though surely not as catastrophic as some other countries on the planet. (Belgium)

works everywhere as the pipes which leak badly are being replaced." (U.K.)

"Water waste in the Dominican Republic exceeds more than 50% of the available water. The CAASD (The aqueduct and sewer system of Santo “Flexeiras was founded on Domingo) works to repair water leaks, the the banks of the Jitituba …again last year many people upkeep of pipes, and to replace old water River. Fifteen or twenty were forced to evacuate their pipes with new ones, but it assumes that the homes because of flooding. It years ago people used to population is doing its part by becoming is always the poorest that live fish and swim in the river more aware of the problems of water, and and the water was clean so close to the river banks. that people repair leaks in toilets, wells, and enough to be used for sinks in their homes. cooking. Now about 60% of the sewers of the city There are more than a hundred Dominican go directly into the river without any treatment and businesses which pour their industrial wastes into the river is very polluted. Many of the poorest the rivers, streams and lakes---situation which is people still use the river to wash clothes and dishes aggravated in the big cities like Santo Domingo and and eat the fish they catch there, in spite of the Santiago where the Ozama warnings of the Health Department. The trees that River, the ISabela and the once lined the river are all gone, and in the rainy Yaque del Norte have season there is always the possibility of flooding. become almost cesspools. In 1995 there was a big flood that took out the two Contamination threatens bridges and destroyed many homes, and again last the extinction of several year many people were forced to evacuate their hundred small rivers..... homes because of flooding. It is always the poorest The "Hydrological Cycle" is that live so close to the river banks. (Brazil) damaged from the beginning because of three "In Buffalo we just received factors: Deforestation, the a message concerned with Contamination of the rivers; waste from the West Valley and Drought..... Nuclear Plant seeping into Climate Change, a real CANCER on the Land. Cattaraugus Creek which Droughts without precedent have been recorded in flows into Lake Erie. the D.R., record torrential rains, as well as increase "(Buffalo) of tropical storms, hurricanes, and floods. Because of the accelerated melting of the glaciers, the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and of the Caribbean Sea are rising and eating away at the coasts of the Island (=EROSION). It is a fact that each year now, the rains are more and more torrential; the "There is ...serious waste of water within the droughts are prolonged; the heat waves are infrastructure of the country. Much of our pipelines suffocating and the cold is unbearable---The experts in the old cities are Victorian, and have never been attribute this to Climate Change. replaced. So we are seeing major works all over the (Dom. Rep.) country where this is the case. In London...road


VI. Initiatives

SISTERS OF SAINT MARY OF NAMUR

"Consumption of water in the D.R. is around 500 litres per person per day, although international norms propose consumption of 200-250 litres per inhabitant per day....It is thus absolutely necessary to do Consciousness-Raising and Education on this problem of water. In order to obtain a better usage of water, water must be given a certain economic value, so that the population learns to care and value it. (Dom. Rep.)

"CAFOD has a very interesting survey that can be carried out on how we use water in our homes and the measurement of our wastefulness. I do this with students." (U.K.)

"A project for Water Filters made of clay has begun in Cambita. The “Our community tries not to buy bottled water, Sisters have and at an Assembly a couple summers ago we collaborated in committed ourselves to be more conscious in these efforts regards to the amount of water we use each day. along with the (Buffalo) local institutions there- the Public Health Department, the Red Cross, The Ministry of the “ -We have a water tank in the court yard of our Environment, the environmental groups. An initial house. We use this water to flush the toilets. We census was made amongst the victims of the Storm also harvest rain water in a barrel and use it to "Noel", which identified particular problems of not water the garden in the summer. having access to potable water. Then, thanks to a - Since we have replaced the bath tub with a group supported by the U.N., more than 700 water shower, we've noticed a clear decrease in our filters were distributed to those living in the most water usage . We use a bucket and a sponge to marginalized barrios - those situated on the river wash the car instead of a banks, and who had been victims of the A project for Water Filters made sprinkler hose. One other floods. This was to alleviate the risks of of clay has begun in Cambita. little gesture: trying to shut vermin, of sicknesses linked to the water The Sisters have collaborated in the faucet or reduce the flow (gastrointestinal and dermatological these efforts along with the local when we wash our hands.” illnesses). Of course this helped institutions there. (Belgium) considerably to improve the health of the most affected urban and rural populations. “We have had consciousness-raising campaigns to A later study was made to see how the filters encourage us to reduce bottled water were being used, and their effects upon the consumption. This commercialization goes counter improvement of health. Thanks to these water to the fundamental right of access to water, as well filters, even those who had no access to potable as filling the planet with plastic wastes. (Canada) water before, because of their situations of poverty, now have access to water and see tangible benefits to their health." (Dom. Rep.)


VII. Ritual and Faith “ Most Catholics in the Dallas/Ft.Worth area rarely hear Pastoral reflections or teachings on Ecology and Water.” (Texas) “ Our Sister, Water', as St. Francis said. Yes, water is a beloved sister. When she is missing, life becomes impossible. With her, life surges up where it did not exist before." (Rwanda).

understanding, and to a good dialogue. Water is a source of liberation. After the burial, and when one returns from the cemetery, everyone washes their hands with water before entering the house. The widow or widower is "liberated" after being bathed in water. This signifies that there are no remaining problems with the dead one, and the spirit of mourning is taken away. At this time, normal life can once again be taken up." (Congo)

“This past Saturday, March 21st, various groups in the Buffalo area gathered by the Our Sister, Water… With water-where the Niagara River her, life surges up where flows into Lake Erie, for a Blessing it did not exist before . of the Waters.”(Buffalo)

SISTERS OF SAINT MARY OF NAMUR

“Water heals... After a quarrel, water will be fundamental to reconciliation, to new

“Ocean water has a kind of music that helps me soften the anger, hatred, jealousy, etc. in my heart. It happens if I open my heart and ear to the beautiful music in the ocean.” (Texas)

With many thanks to our Antennas: Sr. Christine, Sr. Paulina, Sr. Chantal, Sr. Therese Marie, Sr. Marie Pierre, Sr. Patricia, Sr. Rosemary, Sr. Judith, Sr. Nicole. These stories reveal so much to us! Sr. Christina observed, “Flexeiras is a small example of the problem of water which affects many people throughout the world.” We can say the same of our own small congregation---a small example of the problems of water which affect so many on our planet. But we are also part of the consciousness-raising efforts and actions being taken to respond to these problems. We will soon be sending to you some suggestions for utilizing this Reflection Paper, should you wish. You will surely have ideas yourselves, and we'd love to hear from you. Please write to us! for the SSMN International J&P Network, Sr. Patricia, Sr. Rosemary, Sr. Marie Pierre “I was thirsty and you gave me clean water to drink.” (Matthew) “This Good News is not just a word, but a person, Christ himself, risen and alive! By the grace of the sacraments, the water flowing from his open side on the Cross has become an overflowing spring, “rivers of living water,” a flood that no one can halt, a gift that restores life.” (Pope Benedict XVI, December 2006) “As a gift from God, water is a vital element essential to survival, thus everyone has a right to it.” ( Pope John Paul II, 2004.)

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