Franciscans Around Globe Fast for Climate Justice

Jocelyn Thomas Franciscan World

The global Catholic climate movement is participating in a worldwide fast for Lent.

WASHINGTON — Concerned Catholics from more than 45 countries are participating in a Lenten fast in solidarity with those affected by climate change. Americans are invited to join in the global initiative on March 16.

The fast began two weeks ago — on Ash Wednesday — and concludes March 28. On each day of Lent, a different host country is engaging in one leg of GCCM’s 40-day fast. Individuals taking part in the fast encourage participants to fast from both food as well as the use of oil, electricity, plastic, paper and water. The U.S. phase of the initiative, established by the Global Catholic Climate Movement, begins a week from Monday.

The organization chose fasting for its first worldwide action because “Pope Francis made it clear from the start that all people need to act as protectors of creation,” said a news release distributed by GCCM last month.

The purpose of fasting is for spiritual reorientation, said Rhett Engelking, a staff member of the U.S.-based Franciscan Action Network, who is publicizing the event.

In addition to the fast, the American organizers have set up a vigil and a day of lobbying, said Engelking, director of Franciscan Earth Corps. “Between March 14 and 17, we will be lobbying for issues surrounding the climate crisis. We want Congress to acknowledge that humans are responsible for exacerbating climate change.”

Among the many who plan to participate in the March 16 event is Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, a FAN board member and chair of the Province’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Directorate. Organizers of the U.S. fast have contacted legislators asking for their support.

“In his message for Lent 2015 titled ‘Make Your Hearts Firm,’ Pope Francis appeals to each Christian who has yet to confront the indifference that has taken place on a global scale,” according to an informational flyer from the GCCM. LINK “Global temperatures in 2014 were the highest on record, and scientific consensus has specifically linked this to the unprecedented levels of greenhouse gas emissions from unchecked human industry. Considering how the poor are disproportionately impacted by climate shifts, nowhere is such globalized indifference as recognizable. We need unity on the threat posed by the climate crisis.”

Catholics around the world are encouraged to “unite, pray and fast in solidarity with those who are most affected by the changing global climate,” according to Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network.

Carolan and Engelking encourage friars and their partners-in-ministry to both “sign up and to spread the word about the U.S. leg of our Global Lenten Hunger Fast for Climate Justice.” Carolan, the United States contact for the climate fast, can be reached by phone at 202-527-7565 and by email at

Those interested in participating may sign up through FAN’s Facebook page.

The Franciscan Action Network’s staff recommends several seasonal resources that are related to climate change: the Ecological Stations of the Cross and the Lenten Carbon Fast Calendar.

In addition to the resources about climate change that are provided on the GCCM website, information can also be found on FAN’s site, as well as in the Justice and Peace section of the HNP website.

The Franciscans have been working to advocate for the care of God’s creation in varied ways. Early last year, the Order of Friars Minor created Franciscans for Ecology, a website recognizing the 35th anniversary of Francis of Assisi being named the patron saint of ecology. Earlier this year, Jacek and other HNP friars plunged into the Potomac River to raise awareness of climate change.

In September, friars joined thousands of laypeople at the People’s Climate March in New York City. They look forward to the encyclical on climate change from Pope Francis that will be published this spring.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.