By Raymond Syms
“Let’s plant, let’s share, let’s care for this common home of ours.”
That was the challenge from Archbishop Jason Gordon during his pre-recorded contribution to ‘Prayers, Scripture, Reflection and Dialogue on Laudato Si’’ hosted by the Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ) and the Archdiocesan Ministry for Migrants and Refugees (AMMR).
The virtual session was held May 21 during Laudato Si’ Week (May 16–24) to mark the sixth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment.
Archbishop Gordon described the encyclical as the Holy Father’s call to “hear the cry of the Earth” which is a gift from the Creator. He said in Genesis, Adam was tasked with caring for and guarding the Earth; “not to manipulate, not to exploit, not to rape the Earth” but ensure its preservation and longevity.
“The Adamic task is our task, too. We have inherited this incredible possession. We cannot exist separated from the Earth.”
The Archbishop said the Pope’s description of the Earth as our common home should mean thinking of the Earth as how one would think of our own home. “Would you pollute your home; would you treat it badly…would you allow it to be pillaged?” he asked rhetorically. “How we care for our home, that is how we must care for our common home.”
He said reflecting on the encyclical means thinking of integral development or integral ecology, explaining that humanity and the environment are part of an ecosystem, “we are connected to everything in creation”. For example, “We are dependent upon the forest and the forest is also interconnected to us.”
Archbishop Gordon said that during the pandemic, food has become “a serious challenge” and for this reason since the pandemic began, he has encouraged home gardening, even starting one at Archbishop’s House.
‘Doh pick de mango’
He encouraged participants to not only care for the environment but for the poor, and challenged all to “plant a garden in your home, and care for it”.
The Archbishop noted that “an opportunity to think of the ecology in a deeper way” was being provided with Trinidad and Tobago becoming a chapter of the Global Catholic Climate Movement. “Let us think of the Earth, how we are treating her; and let us also think about the poor.”
Leela Ramdeen, Chair of the CCSJ and the AMMR did the welcome to those joining in on Zoom and the Facebook livestream.
The 90-minute session included a humourous Spoken Word piece by CCSJ/AMMR Programme Coordinator Darrion Narine titled ‘Doh pick de mango’; a video presentation on the biodiversity of Venezuela by Ambrosio Rojas, a lawyer working with the AMMR; a ‘Climate Change and Poverty’ video presentation by Dominique Heffers-Doon, CCSJ/AMMR research and social media officer; and ‘Canticle of the sun’, a well-known hymn on a prayer of St Francis of Assisi.
Other pre-recorded reflections came from Maurice White, youth outreach worker for the Catholic Youth Commission, Fr Mikkel Trestrail of the Companions of the Transfigured Christ, CCSJ member Joseph Timothy on ‘What Laudato Si’ means to me’, and Matthew Pierre, AMMR community liaison officer, on tourism and the hospitality industry.
Catholic primary schools were invited to contribute and made submissions: prayers were offered by Isabella Steadman of Hard Bargain RC Primary; St Charles Girls’ RC Primary, Tunapuna; and Felishia Peters of Pt Fortin RC Primary. Matelot Community School recorded a Zoom discussion on the environment among students.
The event ended with a video done by Ramdeen on caring for God’s creation which referenced pastoral letters from the Antilles Episcopal Conference of bishops and papal documents that suggested actions that could be taken to preserve the environment.