Fisheries to Farmlands: A Pilgrimage in Integral Ecology
In April 2023, two members of the communications team of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States—MegAnne Liebsch and Eric Clayton—flew to Nairobi, Kenya, to spend time with a young Jesuit regent named Bryan Galligan. Bryan was then serving as the research and policy analyst for the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network in the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar. Many Jesuits spend their regency—the stage of Jesuit formation when a man is first missioned to full-time work in a Jesuit ministry—teaching in a Jesuit high school, so Bryan’s presence on the other side of the world was unusual.
Like all of us, Bryan brings to his vocation a distinct set of experiences, interests and insights. His background in integral ecology and fisheries made him uniquely qualified to research and advocate for fishing communities being ravaged by the realities of climate change. And so, Meg—the communications manager for the Office of Justice and Ecology—and Eric—responsible for communicating about vocation and Ignatian spirituality—spent time with Bryan to learn firsthand how a Jesuit vocation and the work of justice are intrinsically interwoven.
Just as important, Meg and Eric witnessed the impact of community on the formation of a Jesuit, how without first-hand knowledge and local wisdom figures, a Jesuit simply can not work to right relationships as justice calls us to do.
The journey that Meg, Eric and Bryan undertook together only began in Nairobi. From there, they went to the Kenyan coastal town of Malindi. There they not only observed the life-and-death realities faced by small-scale fisheries, but also spent time with a newly reestablished Jesuit community that has been missioned to continue the legacy of interreligious dialogue begun by none other than St. Francis Xavier himself, who once visited those same shores.
From Nairobi to Lusaka, the team visited Kasisi, a center that trains local farmers in practices of agroecology—a way of farming that is both self-sustaining and protective of the local environment. From coastline to farmland, the team grappled with Pope Francis’ call to integral ecology. And when they returned, they shared the fruits of their trip.
The Coast of Kenya: Malindi
Malindi was a special place for Bryan; it’s where he did some of his most important fishery-related research. But Malindi is also a significant place for the global Society of Jesus.
Indonesian Jesuit Fr. Thomas Aquino Deshi Ramadhani joined the AMDG: A Jesuit Podcast to share his reflections on doing interreligious work in Malindi, a context so far from home and yet at the time so similar.
The Farmlands of Zambia: Kasisi
In Zambia, the importance of practicing agroecology for small-scale farmers quickly became apparent. This innovative approach brings to life the heart of integral ecology.
Engaging the Dialogue
As part of his work, Bryan brings the experiences of the communities he’s encountered to the United Nations. In collaboration with Bryan and his partners, Meg produced two technical videos with the express goals of elevating voices of local experts and those most impacted by a failure to finance blue foods or scale up agroecology.
Through a series of integral ecology dialogues, Bryan and the team brought together stakeholders from the local community to provide a 360-degree view of the impact of climate change in these critical sectors.
From Malindi to Kasisi and across the African continent, the work of the Society of Jesus and its partners continues.