by JEFF DILLON

It may well have started with an ungraceful fall at the local supermarket but the fallout has certainly produced some very “grace full” moments since then.It is said that the Spirit moves in mysterious ways and that is a conclusion that St Mary’s (Mosgiel) parishioner Bernadette Hannagan has come to terms with following her accident.

Mrs Hannagan was supermarket shopping in mid-January when she slipped and fell which resulted in a fractured hip. After repairs at hospital she was reduced to recovering at home with limited scope to get out and about.

Frustrated with her limited mobility, she had time to contemplate her situation and ponder how to productively use her semi-domestic incarceration. Being involved as a member of a small group of parishioners, who function as a sort of “think tank” focussed on how the papal encyclical, Laudato Si’, can be translated into everyday actions, provided a starting point.

In an interesting mix, Mrs Hannagan found that in re-reading the encyclical and also listening to Dolly Parton singing Coat of Many Colours the idea began to form of creating fabric shopping bags of many colours made with love to encourage people to use them instead of plastic bags from the supermarket.

As she noted from a quote in Laudato Si’:” A change in lifestyle could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who would wield political, economic and social power. This is what consumer movements accomplish by boycotting certain products.” — LS 206

Appeals then went out to parishioners in the greater Green Island and Mosgiel combined parish area for donations of unwanted fabrics, clothing, furnishings that could be transformed into useful shopping bags. As the donations came in, requests were made for volunteers to cut out and/or make the bags. The groundswell of support came and the ambitious target of having 150 bags made by Pentecost Sunday was set.

The target was achieved and the completed bags were taken up in the Offertory procession on Pentecost Sunday to be blessed by Fr Michael Dooley. Mrs Hannagan considered it was very appropriate that the bags were blessed on that feast day with the emphasis of the Holy Spirit renewing the face of the earth. Sewn inside each bag is a label saying “Caring for Creation”.

The opportunity for parishioners to donate fabrics and use their time and domestic talents was beneficial in developing a greater sense of parish community.

Parishioners who contribute in whatever way they can, receive a simple thank you card which contains a message inside spelling out the fact that they are helping in caring for creation.

From that initial production 50 bags were donated to the Taieri Food Bank in Mosgiel, 50 were donated to St Vincent de Paul in Dunedin, and 50 were sold to local parishioners for a monetary donation.

The think tank group does not hide its light under a bushel either. One of the team, Donna Peacock in particular, makes sure that there are quotes from Laudato Si’ included in the parish weekly bulletin with a practical suggestion about how the quote can be followed up
with individual action. The group share those weekly suggestions around the other Dunedin parishes for inclusion in their weekly bulletins.

Youth

Their efforts with the shopping bags caught the attention of the South Dunedin Mercy Parish.

As a consequence Mrs Hannagan and Mrs Peacock found themselves directing a
fabric shopping bag-making bee one Friday evening for the Ignite Youth Group at the
Mercy parish.

Again volunteers, with a group of more than 20 parish youth, set to work using loaned sewing machines and donated fabrics to provide bags to be used by Catholic Social Services in handing out their food parcels to their clients.

They were also contacted by another fledgling group in Dunedin, Bags for Good, who are keen to see plastic shopping bags replaced by re-useable bags. At a meeting, the group was interested to learn about the religious background concerning Laudato Si’ that prompted the Green Island and Mosgiel parishioners’ response.

The fabric shopping bag production continues, though at a less frenetic pace compared
with their original 150 target by Pentecost.

Each bag takes about an hour to put together from a pack of cut out pieces supplied with instructions and the Caring for Creation label. Materials continue to be placed in the special bins in the foyer of St Mary’s church in Mosgiel and St Peter Chanel church in Green
Island.

Sale of the bags to parishioners has raised $150 so far and this money will be shared and donated to Taieri College in Mosgiel and Kavanagh College in Dunedin to provide an emergency supply of sanitary products for girls at the schools so that their education is not
curtailed.

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