By Lara Pickford-Gordon
The local chapter of the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) was launched Friday, May 21 online with a pledge of “action” from its first President, Sr Julie Marie Peters SSM.
Quoting Psalm 118: 24, “This day is made by the Lord let us rejoice and be glad ”, Sr Julie said every day was made by the Lord, but she said these words in the spirit of celebration, conviction, and deep faith. She described as “the work of providence” the launch of the Trinidad and Tobago GCCM Chapter, the first in the English-speaking Caribbean. She said it was a kairos time, appointed by God for God’s purpose and work. “This Chapter is being born at the closing of the Laudato Si’ special anniversary year and the beginning of what has been declared by Pope Francis as the decade of the Laudato Si’ action.” She said God calls Catholics to action and expressed confidence the T&T Chapter will be one of action. It was launching in the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, headed by Archbishop Jason Gordon, “a man of action”. The lives of the persons on the steering committee also bore witness to action, and the Chapter had as its backbone the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother (SSM) whose General Superior Sr Catherine Marie Hanegan “wants everything to happen yesterday”.
Sr Julie said the SSM was a congregation of women who will act because they understood the words of St Francis, preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words. “You, the Catholic faithful of the Archdiocese and the people of Trinidad and Tobago, you are the flour and together we will become the rising dough, bread blessed, broken and shared through the process of ecological conversion,” she said. Sr Julie said the responsibilities of the Chapter will be taken seriously and they will do all within their power to implement the GCCM mission, to serve the Catholic family worldwide, and to turn Pope Francis’ encyclical into action for climate justice. This will be done through personal ecological conversion, transforming lifestyles, and calling for bold public policy change together with the wider climate movement. Conversion begins with reflection on the ways people have failed.
Sr Julie said there must be courage to engage in reflection on the questions:
· At the personal level—what new action will I commit to, to deepen my own ecological conversion?
· What societal behaviours and attitudes need to change to embark on a process of communal and ecological conversion?
· What new steps should the Chapter take to promote such a conversion in the society?
Individual conversion, improvement and action were necessary but not enough. “To ensure that creation thrives for present and future generations we must also transform our communities and our institutions. Climate change education and action are essential; essential to instil love for the earth.”
The Chapter, she said, will have to help cultivate a culture of seeing creation with new eyes: eyes of gratitude, eyes of awareness of relationship and interconnectedness, eyes of concern and compassion. The Chapter will devise personal and communal action plans to “deepen our response to the call of Laudato Si’ to hear the cry of the earth and cry of the poor”.
GCCM Executive Director Tomás Insua told the T&T Chapter about the “slow and fast paradox of Laudato Sí’”. The slow side was that their journey was now starting and ecological conversion, a term coined by St John Paul II, was lifelong. “It is not something we are going to get the work done for a couple of months or couple years and we are done; there is no sign this issue will be solved.”
Laudato Si’ invited people to slow down and spend time with the beauty of creation. Insua advised that time be taken for contemplation, and for the Chapter to be grounded in ecological spirituality, which Pope Francis talks about in his encyclical.
Although there is a lockdown with Covid, spending time together in nature is at the core of what is means to be a GCCM member and Chapter, Insua said. On the other hand, the ecological crisis, climate emergency requires fast action. Society, Church, and the members’ own hearts and minds must be transformed very quickly. “We are in an absolutely unsustainable path and we need to change very quickly.”
He assured the TT Chapter of support from the rest of the GCCM family. “We count on your voice…we count especially on those regions most exposed to the crisis to really help the other regions of the Church elsewhere to wake up to the reality and urgency of this crisis.”
The members of the steering committee of the TT Chapter are: President, Sr Julie; Dr Adanna James, lecturer, Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs; Leela Ramdeen, Episcopal Delegate for Social Justice, Chair of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice and Chair, Archdiocesan Ministry for Migrants and Refugees; Gregory Radjiman, lay consecrated member, Living Water Community, representing laypeople; Sr Rose Mary Carvalho SJ, representing religious sisters and Tobago; Marcia Tinto, environmental educator; and Analisa Ramsahai, Franciscan Institute Regional Programme Coordinator and GCCM Central Board member. Moderator for the launch was Episcopal Delegate for Youth, Taresa Best-Downes. Angélica Gonzalez-Apple, Programme Manager, GCCM North America delivered remarks.