We all can start caring for the environment

Laudato Si’ Generation already has a membership of approximately 2,000 Catholics worldwide, primarily between the ages of 15 and 30.

May 30, 2019

By Brian Roewe
The climate strikes represent the first major initiative of Laudato Si’ Generation (http://laudatosigeneration.org/), the recently launched youth arm of the Global Catholic Climate Movement (https://catholicclimatemovement.global/).

Laudato Si’ Generation already has a membership of approximately 2,000 Catholics worldwide, primarily between the ages of 15 and 30. It holds regular webinars and members can join working groups focused on outreach, activism, spirituality and communication.

Marisa Vertrees, organising director for Global Catholic Climate Movement, said that the idea of a youth branch came from a growing recognition from the movement’s own work as well as World Youth Day and the Synod on Youth.

“There was so much energy among Catholic youth and young adults in taking action on the climate crisis, and so much of a need for them to be given a voice,” she said.

Two days before World Youth Day opened in Panama in January 2019, 400 young Catholics gathered to discuss the Pope’s social encyclical on the environment. That conference produced a youth climate manifesto later presented to Cardinal Luis Tagle, head of Caritas Internationalis.

It also marked the start of Laudato Si’ Generation.

“Our future and the future of those who will come after us is in grave danger,” the manifesto begins. “For a long time, humanity has embarked in an irresponsible path of environmental destruction that still makes our present precarious and affects the future.”

The youth climate manifesto calls for “ongoing ecological conversion” at all levels of the Church, including steps toward promoting simple and sustainable lifestyles, for ecclesial structures to commit to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030 and to adopt ethical investment guidelines that would divest Church finances from fossil fuels.

It also calls on world leaders to meet the Paris Agreement goal of holding global warming to 1.5 C by phasing out fossil fuels; to take concerted steps by 2030 to protect a third of the planet’s ecosystems and to provide universal and fair access to drinking water; and to implement the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

Apart from the climate strikes, education and awareness have been an early focus for Laudato Si’ Generation. It is working to develop guidelines for setting up groups on school campuses around the Pope’s encyclical.

In addition to the strike, young Catholics in Seattle, USA are sending a letter to their bishops and heads of Catholic schools requesting that Laudato Si’ be included more fully in curricula and that faith-based ecological programmes are offered in schools.

Luke Henkel, an outreach coordinator for Laudato Si’ Generation and chair of the creation care team at Seattle’s St James Cathedral, said that while there are lots of activities in church groups, the power of the encyclical remains somewhat untapped. “There’s little awareness of the revolutionary way that the Catholic Church is treating the environmental crisis because of Laudato Si’ ,” he said.

“It doesn’t seem like anybody’s really connecting the fact that this is where we can really make good change by educating ourselves on what Catholic social teaching is regarding the environment,” said the 29-year-old Henkel.

Henkel, a former seminarian for the Divine Word Missionaries, was inspired by the environmental work he witnessed during his time as a missionary in the Philippines, and the passion in Panama at World Youth Day. The big challenge now is cultivating that same energy and passion within the wider Church and getting Church leaders to start caring for the environment and our common home.

We all can start caring, not just Pope Francis!

(This article first appeared on NCRonline.org, the Website of National Catholic Reporter, and is being used with permission)

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