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The Letter’ – How much do we care for our environment?

On Saturday,  April 1, a group of approximately 80 persons assembled at Benet Hall, Mt St Benedict, St Augustine to be part of a screening of the documentary on Laudato Si’ –The Letter.

This gathering was in response to an invitation from the Episcopal Delegate for Religious, Sr Petronilla Joseph O Carm, and other members of the Episcopal Team, in collaboration with the Trinidad and Tobago Chapter of the Laudato Si’ Movement, and the Regional Programme Co-ordinator, Franciscan Institute (FI), Analisa Ramsahai.

The Letter has been inspired by Pope Francis’ Encyclical of 2015, and his urgent appeal to all of humanity to take care of the Earth in the face of the devastating effects of climate change.

Following the Opening Prayer by Neila Todd TOC (Third Order Carmelite), a combined congregational choir rendered the song, ‘The Canticle of the Sun – The Heavens are Telling the Glory of God’, which was composed by St Francis of Assisi. St Francis has been known for his love, concern and care for God’s creation and is the patron saint of those who study and work in the field of Ecology.

Master of Ceremonies, Sr Lystra Long OP, member of the Episcopal Team, warmly welcomed all present, including members of Religious Congregations, namely: St Joseph of Cluny, Dominicans, Corpus Christi Carmelites, Holy Faith Sisters, Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, Missionaries of Charity, and Sinsinawa Sisters. Also present, were members of the Third Order Carmelites (TOC), representatives of the Living Water Community, Eternal Light Community, Zion RC Community and Handmaids of Our Lady of Mt Carmel.

Sr Petronilla noted that the Earth is crying out for remediation and that as Christians, we have a duty to protect God’s creation. She reminded all present, that other encyclicals of the more recent past, those of St Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, also shared concerns about the destruction of the environment. She emphasised however, that all is not lost and appealed to everyone’s personal commitment.

Ramsahai referenced the teachings of Genesis 1 and 2, citing that God created everything ‘good’, that humanity ought to be faithful stewards of His gift and while we can do so individually, we can do so much more, collectively.

This doctrine prompted the formation of a Movement – The Laudato Si’ Movement, whose major goals are to have the world work together to save the Earth by paying attention to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor, ecological economics, simple lifestyles, ecological education, ecological spirituality, community involvement, and participation for the common good of all.

Viewing the documentary served to reinforce the belief that the Holy Father had indeed penned The Letter as a personal invitation to all of humanity to take responsibility, and act to save our common home – planet Earth.

Throughout the screening, there were gasps from persons around the room as the movie graphically illustrated the intense suffering of people worldwide, who had endured the horrors of the devastating effects of climate change.

Some of the glaring examples of the travails facing the less empowered but more affected people, include the killings and silencing of environmental activists – the indigenous peoples, who sought to be advocates for the preservation of the rainforest in Brazil, where since 1978, pure environmental lands twice the size of Spain have been lost, due to deforestation.

In Africa, a continent responsible for only 3 per cent of global emissions, there have been some of the most brutal effects, fuelled by the climate crisis, in the form of severe droughts, dried fields, and rising sea levels.

In Senegal, for example, these climatic disruptions have caused many to flee their homes and sacrifice their lives at sea, to seek a better life in Europe.

The floodings, landslides, and deaths in India; the out-of-control bushfires in Australia, and the marine heatwaves in Hawaii that destroyed corals, in addition to cyclones, hurricanes, earthquakes, and more, have wreaked havoc all over the world, with climate change as the culprit.

The Holy Father has requested that all religious groups and the secular world come together to address the dire consequences of climate change – ‘Our earth and people are crying out’ and we must act!

In his wisdom, Pope Francis has indicated that we cannot discuss Theology, without discussing Science. He added that God has given us all the capacity to investigate.

The film offered an opportunity for us all to hear factual stories in real time from people who live it daily. The Letter also demonstrates love, empathy, passion, support, togetherness, and hope, motivating us beyond ‘lip service’, to assume responsibility for meaningful action.

At the end of the viewing, discussion groups were formed to explore solutions that can be implemented in Trinidad and Tobago to mitigate the negative effects of climate change.

Participants left with the firm conviction that there is a definite need to make a difference, no matter how small, whether it is minimising the waste we create, recycling, or saving electricity.

Experts have predicted that as many as 1.2 billion persons could be left displaced by ‘climate change’ by the year 2050. What a dose of reality!

—Handmaids of Our Lady of Mt Carmel.


Think about it! What can/will YOU do?

Some suggestions:

  • Encourage members of your families, parishes, schools, universities, communities, and workplaces to participate in a group screening. You may wish to contact Analisa Ramsahai – analisa@franciscaninstitute.org – who can initiate education sessions and open dialogue for the various groups, regardless of age, religion, background, discipline, or expertise.
  • Bring Laudato Si’ to life in all Church ministries and create a plan to strengthen care for our common home, planet Earth.
  • Educate nearby primary and secondary schools on reducing the carbon footprint, and support students and teachers through training activities/projects on recycling, composting, water conservation, promotion of energy efficiency, and more.