Scarboro Missions magazine, November 2004 calendar edition

Developed by Sharon Willan, program assistant for Scarboro Missions’ Lay Mission Office and former curriculum writer in the York Catholic District School Board, Toronto, Canada. This Guide can be adapted for Christian users and adult educators.


In 2005 the United Nations launched its “Decade for action: Water for Life” dedicated to an appreciation of water and our stewardship of water as a vital resource for all life on Earth. The Scarboro Missions 2005 calendar invites you to reflect on water as God’s gift – as essential to life – and to work to preserve water and ensure its just distribution.

This Guide refers to the quotes, images and information in the top and bottom half of each calendar month.

COVER    html version

“All you who are thirsty, come to the water.” (Isaiah 55:1)The tsunami disaster of December 26, 2004, reminds us of how fragile life is. We were humbled by the power of nature, and blessed by the resilience of human nature.The faces of women, men and children affected by this disaster will live in our minds forever: the relentless terror, the heart-rending sorrow and grief, the hunger and the thirst.

Look at the picture on the cover of the calendar issue. Imagine all that water rushing onto the shore, demolishing everything in its path; then washing back out to sea, pulling with it homes, cars, people, animals, anything that stands in its way. Imagine there is no fresh water anywhere.

Now look at the picture again and imagine that this is a river of fresh water. Water has the power to refresh, quench thirst, cleanse, bless, and give life.

Thirst for refreshing water is one kind of thirst. What else do I thirst for? What is meant by the words, “All you who are thirsty, come to the water” (Isaiah 55:1)? Find this quotation in the Bible and read the paragraphs surrounding the quote. What is the context of this line? Do I thirst for justice? How do I attempt to quench this thirst?

Compassionate God,
Thank you for the gift of water that I so often take for granted.
What do I truly thirst for in this world?
As I come to the water you so freely provide, help me thirst for justice for all of the world’s people. Help me become aware of their needs and so thirst for their welfare.

JANUARY    pdf version

Take a few moments to look at the January picture in the calendar issue. What do you see? How does this image affect you?

The water around and underneath the lily pads is teeming with life. Frogs, toads, fish as well as plants and other animals rely on this water for life. Humans, too, cannot live without water.

Billions of people today do not have access to safe water. Women in developing countries often have to walk 10 to 20 kilometres a day in search of fresh water for their families, for cooking, bathing and drinking.

Read the quotes from the UN Millennium Development Goals and the Ministerial Declaration, 2001, from the lower calendar section.

How can I bring the living waters the bible speaks of to people in need? Where do I begin?

Creator God,
Thank you for the beauty of the sacred water that provides life on this Earth.
Thank you for the intricate web of life that permeates our planet.
Help me become more aware of how this web interconnects each person to each other and with all of creation.

FEBRUARY    pdf version

Spend some time looking at this picture of Baptism. Reflect on your baptism. Were you baptized as an infant? Do you remember any stories about this event in your life?
Were you baptized as an adult? What led you to make this decision?
What does baptism mean to you today?

“Be rich in the harvest of justice which Jesus Christ has ripened in you.” (Philippians 1:11)

What connections can you make with your baptism, water and this quotation?

February 9 marks the first day of Lent. We remember that we came from God and will return to God. How will I live out my baptism and work for justice during this six-week period? How will the “harvest of justice” ripen in me?

God of Justice and Mercy,
As we once again enter into this period of Lent and Easter, help us remember the baptismal promise to become like you.
Help us become your hands, feet, and heart on this Earth.
Fill us with compassion for those in need and stir our hearts to action.

MARCH    pdf version

“Of all the social and natural resource crises we humans face, the water crisis is the one that lies at the heart of our survival and that of planet Earth.” (UN World Water Development Report, “Water for People, Water for Life”)

In developing countries, the task of finding and carrying water falls on women and children. With hours spent fetching water each day, children are unable to go to school. It is estimated that girls can be better leaders of families if they can achieve at least a grade seven education. Without an education, they remain in poverty and the cycle is continued.

Look carefully at the March picture. Imagine that these two young girls are your children, nieces, sisters, or children of friends.

What affects you most as you look at this picture?How have I become more aware of the needs of others this Lent?

In what ways have I been Resurrection to those around me?

God of Knowledge,
You know our needs and you have given us the means and knowledge to create solutions to the challenges that face us.
We know that there are enough resources for each person on this Earth. We know that pollution is killing our water sources. We also know what we must do.
Help us exchange our selfish ways for communal goals.

APRIL    pdf version

Following Christ allows us to live life more fully. When we claim the Resurrection, we are attempting to live life with abundance, not scarcity. Today, take some time to reflect on the beauty and sacredness of water. Find a comfortable place to relax and listen to soothing music.

Look at the picture for April and allow your thoughts to settle. Look at the wide expanse of water. Drink in the colours. Let the rays of the sun warm you.

Think of all the ways you use water in your life. As you think of each usage, thank God for this gift of water. Continue with this litany of thanksgiving.

Think of all the ways that water is sacred and continue the litany of thanksgiving.

Thank you, gracious God!

MAY    pdf version

“Water is not an unlimited resource. Its rational use in solidarity demands the collaboration of all people of good will with the Government Institutions so as to ensure the effective protection of the environment, understood as a gift from God” “Water Source of Life”, Pope John Paul II

Many countries have contributed money to development organizations so that boreholes (wells) can be drilled in rural communities in Africa. This allows the women to walk to a source near or in the village to obtain clean water.

As you look at the smiles on the faces of these women in Malawi, you begin to understand what a great gift water is for them.

Today, I look at the extras I have in my life. Is there some extra I can forego in order to contribute to an organization that provides water in a developing country?

Gracious God,
We are truly thankful for the gift of water. We enjoy the sacred cleansing, the peaceful sounds of gentle waves, the slaking of thirst, and the freshness of rain.
We are aware of the crisis of water on our Earth. We know that not all your children have access to clean water.
Open our hearts to more collaborative effort on our part that we might join with millions around the world to act on behalf of those with no voice.

JUNE    pdf version

The child in the June photo revels in the “festival” of rain. Thomas Merton says, “I celebrate its gratuity and meaninglessness.”

Today privatization is sweeping the basic service sectors: water, electricity, education, and health. Thomas Merton was right when he said, “the time will come when they will sell you even your rain.” For it is the water cycle that provides water for the Earth and private companies are selling water at outrageous prices. The poor can no longer pay water bills and must go to rain puddles and other unclean sources for water to drink, cook with, and bathe.

See the joy and surprise on the young girl’s face as the water pours over her. Every person on this Earth has the right to this joy as well as the responsibility to use water in just ways.

Think of times when you have “reveled” in water. Think of your use of water, especially in summer. Is it responsible?

Compassionate God,
Blessed are the children who teach us childlike responses to your creation.
Recreate in us a sense of wonder and delight in your creation. With this sense of awe, let us work for a better world for all.

JULY    pdf version

“The relationship that links God, human beings and all the community of the living together is emphasized in the covenant which God made with Noah after the flood. The rainbow that we still see in the sky is a constant reminder of this bond and challenge (Gen 9:19). This covenant recognizes the very close bonds which bind living forms together in what are called ecosystems. The implications of this covenant for us today are clear. As people of the covenant, we are called to protect endangered ecosystems, like our forests, mangroves and coral reefs, and to establish just human communities in our land. More and more we must recognize that the commitment to work for justice and to preserve the integrity of creation are two inseparable dimensions of our Christian vocation to work for the coming of the kingdom of God in our times.”
“What Is Happening To Our Beautiful Land?” 1988, Philippine Bishops

Have I ever looked at Canada as a beautiful land? Have I seen sunsets or sunrises over the Great Lakes? Have I marveled at the lakes that dot the countryside as I travel? How do I live out my responsibility to protect this environment?
How am I protecting the environment I live in?

God of the Covenant,
We know we are all part of the one web of life. When one strand of the web is hurt, we all hurt.
The rainbow has long been a symbol of wholeness and healing. Let us be colours of the rainbow, spreading delightful and wondrous rays of healing wherever we walk.
Let us walk on holy ground. Let us honour the covenant on our journey home to you, O God.

AUGUST    pdf version

“We can’t help being thirsty, moving toward the voice of water… Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, shamans, everyone hears the intelligent sound and moves with thirst to meet it.” (Rumi)

We all believe in One God and call God by different names, worshipping and praising God in a variety of ways. We hold to our faith tradition while respecting all others.

We thirst for God, and “our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O God” (Augustine). God is the Womb in Whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28)

As we look at the child in the August photo, we realize that we do not know her faith tradition, yet our hearts reach out to her as she revels in the water. When do our hearts close to others who hold different beliefs?

What is my stance toward other faith traditions?
Have I ever visited a Mosque, Synagogue, Temple, or other Christian Church?
Do I know the core beliefs and teachings of other faith traditions? Do I see the commonalities between their beliefs and mine?
What does each of us believe about water, the environment, God?

“May all creatures, all living things, all beings one and all, experience good fortune only. May they not fall into harm.”

“Common be your prayer; Common be your end; Common be your purpose; Common be your deliberation; Common be your desires; Unified be your hearts; Unified be your intensions; Perfect be the union amongst you.”

“The good religion which is of all things best, regards all men as God’s children.”

“Lay not burdens on any but thyself; and stir up the faithful… He who shall mediate between men for a good purpose shall be the gainer by it…If ye are greeted with a greeting, then greet ye with a better greeting, or at least return it; God taketh count of all things.”

SEPTEMBER    pdf version

“This is what God asks of you, to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6

Water is a limited natural resource and a public good fundamental for life and health. The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights.”
(U.N. General Comment No. 15 on the Right to Water, 2002)

In September’s photo you see a young girl about to place a pail of water on her head to carry it home for the family. This water comes from the stream she is standing in. Quite possible the villagers wash themselves and their clothes in this water. The pail of water looks extremely heavy, too heavy for such a young person to carry. And her journey home may be a long one.

What does the phrase “human dignity” mean? How much does it take to have “human dignity”?

What has happened to the survivors of the tsunami disaster? Do they have the means to survive or to live with “human dignity”?

OCTOBER    pdf version

Francis of Assisi was named the patron saint of ecology in 1989 for good reason. Like the God of Creation, he too saw that all of creation was “good”. In writing the Canticle of All Creatures, Francis gave praise to God for the cosmos, moon, stars, the Earth and all its creatures, for earth, fire, air, and water.”

Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground.” (Oscar Wilde)When we view polluted rivers, lakes and oceans or see the devastation caused by acid rain, our hearts are filled with sorrow. This is “holy ground”. God is everywhere and in all things. All creation is a glimpse of God. What does it say of our relationship with God when we defile creation? God is within the polluted waters and in our sorrowful hearts. God shows us how to be aware of our world. But God does not force us to be responsible. That is something we must do.

Look at the peaceful waters in the October photo. Pray Francis’s prayer for water. Reflect on what the words mean to you and on your responsibility.

Francis once said, “Preach the Gospel always, and if you must, use words.”

What do my actions say about my commitment to the Gospel, to the environment, to people?

NOVEMBER    pdf version

“We see our waters increasingly governed by imposed economic, foreign and colonial domination, as well as trade agreements and commercial practices that disconnect us as peoples from the ecosystem. Water is being treated as a commodity and as a property interest that can be bought, sold and traded in global and domestic market-based systems. These imposed and inhumane practices do not respect that all life is sacred, that water is sacred.”
–Indigenous Peoples Declaration on Water, Kyoto, Japan, 2003

Water is indeed the lifeblood that sustains us all. Reflect on the November photo and the quote on that page. What do the words mean to me? How connected am I to the ecosystem?

Read the quote from the Declaration on Water, above. Do I know what is happening to Canadian water? Is it being privatized?

DECEMBER    pdf version

A Child Reflects:
“You teach us how to behave in the world. You teach us not to fight with others; to work things out; to respect others; to clean up our mess; not to hurt other creatures; not to be greedy; Then why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do? My dad always says, ‘You are what you do, not what you say.’ Well, what you do makes me cry at night. You grown-ups say you love us. I challenge you. Please make your actions reflect your words.”
(Severn Suzuki, age 12: Speech at the Earth Summit Conference in Rio de Janeiro, 1992)

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas this month, let us reflect on how we can give the greatest gift of all to those who truly need. Let us give the water of life. Reflect on the December picture and quote from Revelations. As we write gift lists, let us include the needs of the whole community. Through the Prophet Isaiah, we are required to “remove the yoke of injustice and let the oppressed go free.” (Isaiah 58)
How can I give the water of life this Christmas?


Throughout the year we have reflected on the gift of water as the lifeblood of the Earth. We recognize that water is sacred, nurturing, cleansing and powerful.

We acknowledge that we have not protected this gift; we have exploited our lakes and rivers; we have contributed to the growing gap between the rich and poor; we are causing the neediest of our peoples to drink unsafe water through privatization.

We realize that everything in creation is a face of the Divine; that we all belong to the web of life; that when one piece of creation is made extinct, the web weakens.

We know that God has given us the intelligence, compassion and expertise to make changes so that all might live.The question is: Will I do what I know I must do?

The answer is mine; the results are global.

“If I am not part of the solution…
I am part of the problem.”

Let us reflect on the serenity prayer to make our decision. We cannot change the world but we can change the one part we live in, if we choose.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference



Hidden Messages of Water
Masuro Emoto

Whose Water Is It: The Unquenchable Thirst of a Water-Hungry World
Bernadette McDonald, D. Jehl, Ed.

Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America’s Water
Robert Glennon

Water Wars: Drought, Flood, Folly and the Politics of Thirst
Diane Raines Ward

Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop Corporate Theft of the World’s Water
Maude Barlow, Tony Clark

Every Drop for Sale: Our Desperate Battle Over Water In a World About to Run Out
Jeffrey Rothfeder