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Commitment to Our Common Home

by Joanne Safian, RSHMCategory: Updates

woman with blue jacket and white blouse standing at podium in front of open laptop with microphone in hand

Each year in September, the Sisters of the Eastern American Area gather for Missioning Day, a time to recommit ourselves as disciples of Jesus Christ.

On September 17, 2022, Sister Rosamond Blanchet, our Area Leader, welcomed us and introduced the focus of the day: to listen and respond to the cry of the earth in conjunction with the Season of Creation. Beginning on September 1st with the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, and ending on October 4th, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, the Season of Creation is an annual global ecumenical initiative. The 2022 theme, “Listen to the Voice of Creation,” calls us to listen to the voices of individuals, communities, species, and ecosystems who are lost to the ravages of climate change. The logo of the 2022 Season is the burning bush, recalling not only the devastation of wildfires, but also the fire that called to Moses which did not consume the bush, but revealed God’s presence.

Our prayer for the day was a video produced by the Vatican, coupling disturbing images of the impact of the climate crisis with calls to action in which everyone can engage. You can view it here. You can also search “Season of Creation 2022” on YouTube for similar videos.

Sister Susan Gardella then introduced Sister Veronica Brand, our RSHM NGO representative at the United Nations, who has attended several UN Conferences on Climate Change, most recently COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. Veronica offered a powerful presentation on “Climate Change and Its Impact: Global Advocacy and Our Response to the Cry of the Earth.” The statistics are alarming, particularly the rate of increase in carbon emissions and pollution, global warming, catastrophic climate disasters, and the loss of biodiversity which far exceeds the rate of natural extinction. As a result, people, especially the most vulnerable, are suffering from food insecurity, disease, loss of livelihood, and forced migration.

Most upsetting, perhaps, is that industries and governments of the world have long known about the emerging crisis and have failed to respond. Veronica pointed out that in 1999, Sister Marjorie Keenan, RSHM, who was a senior staff member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican, wrote: “Care for the environment is not one issue among many, it is the over-riding framework for the consideration of almost all the social issues we face today, including such apparently disparate ones as bioethics and war. It is a moral issue with immense economic and political implications.”

Veronica also outlined for us several initiatives by organizations around the world that are working to halt or at least slow the disastrous course we are on, among them the Vatican’s call for a Fossil-Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.

picture of women seated in small groups actively involved in discussion

Following Veronica’s presentation, we gathered in small groups to discuss ways in which we can combat the climate crisis. Suggestions ranged from specifics such as eliminating the use of all plastics, to exploring community resources such as composting, to using our investments for advocacy with corporations. The Area Council will consider all the suggestions in moving us towards commitments for the year.

Sisters being anointed on Missioning Day at Mass

We then joined in the celebration of Eucharist and the rite of missioning. Our Area Council anointed each of us with the words: “Go forth responding to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” A festive lunch followed, and we went forth, “Aware of our interconnectedness with all creation, we proclaim ‘fullness of life for all’ through the integrity of our lives, our relationships with one another, all peoples and our planet.” (2019 General Chapter Document)

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