SILVER SPRING, Md. — President Barack Obama made addressing climate change the most prominent policy vow of his second inaugural address and stressed that our country has everything needed to turn the tide against global warming and ecological disaster: “youth and drive, diversity and openness, and an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention.”
He may as well have been describing what the friars and lay partners-in-ministry of Holy Name Province have been doing the past few months to promote what Blessed John Paul II called “an ecological conversion” in our efforts to address climate change.
Youth and drive — not to mention a capacity for risk — were all over the place as young adults from the Latino community at St. Camillus Parish joined more than 200 other brave souls from the local area to raise more than $60,000 for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network by taking part in the 8th annual Polar Bear Plunge. The money raised is essential for this grass-roots, non-profit organization to continue to fight for climate justice in the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., community.
Going from the local to the state level, just a few days later, friars Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, and Erick Lopez, OFM, stood next to Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley (shown in photo) as he proclaimed this year “The Year of the Chesapeake,” and vowed to pass the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy bill. The parishioners of St. Camillus Church have been very involved in advocating for this piece of legislation as part of their response to Franciscan Climate Challenge.
On the national front, two weeks ago, on the three-month anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, leaders of various Franciscan entities in the Northeast, including Holy Name Province, sent letters to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. They praised the state leaders for speaking out on climate change and urged them “to join other elected officials in calling President Obama to host a presidential summit on climate solutions.” Franciscans, in coalition with other Catholics, are invited to add their voices to the call for a summit via a sign-on letter.
In addition, the Franciscan Action Network is trying to galvanize its base to take part in the Forward on Climate March on Feb. 17 in Washington, D.C., when thousands of people will seek to make the march the largest climate rally in U.S. history. This effort is part of FAN’s larger campaign on climate change as outlined in a Feb. 7 webinar. This initiative includes local organizing efforts among FAN members, the addition of FAN’s leadership to those calling President Obama to host a presidential summit on climate solutions, and monthly webinars to keep members informed of new opportunities and actions on behalf of climate justice. Methods to sign up to participate in the webinars can be found on the FAN website.
Never forgetting that what we do for our environment at home touches the poorest of our brothers and sisters around the world, we continue to call attention to the impact that our reliance to fossil fuels is projected to have on more than one million poor farmers in Central America whose livelihoods are being threatened by the dramatic shifts due to global warming.
As we begin this new year with a focus on climate change, we also enter the season of Lent, a time of personal and communal conversion. In a 2001 homily, Pope John Paul II called us all to “encourage and support ‘the ecological conversion,’ which has made humanity more sensitive to the catastrophe to which it has been heading,” and in another address stressed that “the penitential season of Lent offers a profound lesson to respect the environment.”
May we take this message to heart and continue to pray and work for more faithful stewardship of the earth’s goods by promoting environmental awareness, sustainable living, and communities of cultivated well-being.
— Br. John, a resident of Holy Name College in Silver Spring, is studying at The Catholic University in Washington, D.C.