(Cover photo: Fr. Laurien Nyiribakwe, SJ, joins the CYNESA DRC team in a clean-up activity in Bukavu, July 2017).
What better day to acknowledge the role of “Eco-Jesuits”, in our CYNESA story, than on the Feast Day of St. Ignatius of Loyola!
A few years ago, in 2012 to be specific, a group of young Catholics were thinking about setting up a platform, through which they could learn more about Catholic Social Teaching on the environment-and then do something together. They turned to some young Jesuits they knew to seek their views and counsel.
One of them, Br. Ngonidzashe Edward Sj, a Zimbabwean Jesuit, was at the time studying at Hekima University College in Nairobi. He teamed up with our founder to co-author a piece on the initiative, which was published by the Ecojesuit newsletter the first official announcement of CYNESA’s existence to the world. When Ngoni moved to Harare at the end of his studies, another young Jesuit from Rwanda, Laurien Nyiribakwe Sj, had just move to Nairobi for his studies at Hekima. Laurien, who has a background in Environmental Science, immediately chose to work with CYNESA, and played a critical role in it growth. It is impossible to count the number of times Laurien arranged a meeting room at Hekima, for the CYNESA Kenya team to meet in.
At the end of his time in Nairobi, Fr. Laurien’s Provincial sent him to serve at the Jesuit novitiate in Cyangugu, where he closely accompanied our CYNESA team in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is based in Bukavu, just across the border from Rwanda. Fr. Laurien’s companion, Ghanaian Jesuit Fr. Kpanie Addy played an important role in the formation of our team members, especially in offering insights on how Ignatian spirituality can ignite environmental action.
Two South African Jesuits also feature prominently in our story. Fr. Peter Knox Sj, a lecturer at Hekima University College, has always been available to CYNESA, offering his expertise on Catholic Social Thought on environment, and celebrating the Holy Eucharist with us during key moments in our calendar. In the recent months as we have worked to set up a chapter in South Africa, Fr. Rampe Hlobo Sj, has always been enthusiastic about getting the young people in Jesuit parishes in Johannesburg and Cape Town, involved in the process. He created time in his busy schedule to organize a workshop for young people on Laudato Si’ at his parish, St. Mary’s Nyanga in Cape Town.
Back in Nairobi, we were able to join Fr. Etienne Triaille Sj, as he celebrated 50 years of priesthood on 29th July. CYNESA has worked closely with Fr. Etienne, especially in his role as advisor to the Holy See mission at the United Nations in Nairobi (headquarters to the UN Environment and UN-Habitat). Fr. Etienne’s guidance and wisdom has encouraged us to go even further in deepening our mission. Another wise Jesuit in Nairobi with whom we have had the honour of engaging is Fr. Terry Charlton Sj.
Further afield, in the Philippines, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States, our encounters with Fr. Pedro Walpole Sj, Fr. Ward Biemans Sj, Fr. Jaime Tatay Sj and Fr. Michael Agliardo Sj, respectively, have all enriched our work in unique ways, providing a global perspective to our African mission.
To all “Eco-Jesuits”, Happy Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola!