Brother Colm Griffey is a Christian Brother and currently a course participant.
From the An Tairseach Course in Wicklow I send greetings. As I write we are half way through a most wonderful course, interesting, informative and relaxing. We are a group of 14, mainly religious from Ireland and from other countries, some from as far away as Australia and New Zealand. For us it is a ten-week sabbatical course and I am certainly enjoying it. I expect I will leave here with a brand new outlook on life, on the universe and on my image of God.
An Tairseach is the name of the Dominican Farm and Ecology Centre. The spirituality of this community and this place is given expression and witnessed to through the lens of creation theology, where planet earth is understood as the primary revelation of the Divine. Here we attempt to live in right-relationship with God, humankind and the cosmos. An Tairseach is the Irish word for threshold and it suggests a new beginning, an alternative and more sustainable way of working with the land as well as a renewed relationship with the whole community of life, human and other-than-human.
In 2005 the Dominican Sisters decided to renovate a building on the grounds and opened the Dominican Ecology Centre, which offers a variety of programmes from single lectures to ten-week Sabbaticals. All of the programmes are based on the new cosmology, which seeks to view God through the lens of an evolving universe and a deepening understanding of a renewed relationship with the whole community of life, human and non-human.
This sabbatical for us is a time to come apart and reflect on one’s life journey and on the big existential questions of: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where are we going? Why are we here? What ultimately matters? How are we to live? What happens when we die? How should we relate to the Earth? Who is our God? Is there a God? What does God do?
Exploring spirituality is central to the course in the context of an expanding universe and an endangered Earth.
With the insights of modern science and technology we have a new origin story. We now know that our universe had a beginning some fourteen billion years ago and that it has been evolving ever since and that it continues to evolve. This new cosmology and the questions it raises form the basis of our course. We avail of the knowledge of visiting experts / lecturers who walk with us as we engage with the big questions.
The course provides us with a good balance between lectures, discussion, private study, time for liturgy, private prayer, reflection, opportunities to be creative, plus time to be outside and experience nature in all its variety.
Fully functioning Organic Farm
The ecology centre is set in the context of the fully functioning organic farm. The Farm could be compared to an island in the midst of an urban setting. The 70 acres of land provide for many things: the production of organically grown vegetables; grazing for cattle; science outings or retreats. Various habitats include a pond, wetland and woodland areas. Since the Ecology Centre opened twelve years ago over 10,000 sponsored trees have been planted. This has attracted many feathered avian neighbours. Some land is designated for areas of conservation. Produce from the farm is sold in the organically certified shop providing the people of Wicklow with high quality healthy nutritious food. On Saturdays the produce is sold in markets in Bray, Kilruddery and Pearse Street, Dublin.
In the Ecology Centre, participants of the Sabbatical programme explore spirituality in the context of an evolving universe, an endangered earth and the Christian tradition. The ten week course takes place twice each year, Spring and Autumn. Great credit is due to the Dominican Sisters for having the vision to put in place this wonderful Ecology Centre where religious and lay can explore their spirituality in a relaxed environment.
A free guided Farm Walk is held on the first Saturday of every month starting at 11.00 a.m. at the Farm Shop. All are welcome.
Further information available from the website: www.ecocentrewicklow.ie