Written by Anne Kirori – a CYNESA Core Member from Kenya. She writes about her experience in the USA during the Pope’s visit and much more.
I am seated on an 8-hour train from Providence to Washington DC, recollecting the many beautiful times I have had here in the USA. There is nothing much to do in a moving train so I decide to write this piece and share my experience with many young people in Africa and beyond.
I arrived in the USA on a chilly Wednesday night at 7:21pm and was received warmly. I was so tired after a 14 hour flight from Dubai to Washington, DC but excited to be in the States for the first time. My coming followed an invitation by Patrick Carolan, the Executive Director of the Franciscan Action Network (FAN). The aim was to share the impacts of climate change in Kenya, what young people are doing to address climate change and also participate in the many events that were happening during the Pope’s visit in the USA.
I soon adapted to life in Washington. FAN had set up an exhibition tent at McPherson Square that was aimed at created awareness on ‘Laudato Si’ as well as collecting signatures for the ‘Catholic Climate Petition’. My first week in the USA was spent at the tent speaking with people and this gave me an opportunity to share with them about CYNESA’s mission, and create networks. Every evening we would have a gathering to meditate and reflect on the 10 day hunger fast for the climate that people were involved in. We would get people from different faiths to lead the process. The last day on the exhibition, on the eve of the Pope’s visit, had a vigil at the John Marshall Park, Capitol South.
On the first Sunday, I attended a beautiful Mass at Saint Camillus Church. The Mass was lively with music and dance. They choir also sang two Swahili songs and that made me feel at home.
During my stay in Washington DC, I had many opportunities to give talks about CYNESA and how young people are addressing the problem of climate change in Kenya. Some of them include a breakfast meeting on creation care, talks at Gonzaga College and MaryVale Girls School. I was also on the frontline together with other faith leaders during the opening speech at the Mall during the Rally held for the Pope’s visit. In this particular rally I met His Grace Archbishop Pedro Barreto, SJ, of Huancayo, Peru, who signed the Catholic Climate Petition!
I was in the USA at a prime time when the Pope was visiting. I got a chance to see him but only for 8 seconds. It was worth it. There was a large crowd of people waving and shouting Papa Francesco! Papa Francesco! Some were crying at the sight of him.The Pope blessed us. It was indeed humbling to see him making the Pope mobile parade. I was lucky to get a ticket to see the Pope again when he was making his speech to the US Congress. Some of the issues captured in his speech were his thoughts on immigration and the death penalty, protection of life at all stages, and need to care for creation. My favorite quote from his speech was:-
“If you want security then give security
If you want life then give life
If you want opportunity then give opportunities”
(Pope Francis speech to the US Congress)
There were many activities around the Pope’s visit and the city was full of expectations.
I had a chance to visit New York during the UN Summit on Sustainable Development Goals that was in session on the weekend on 26th & 27th November. Here I met the team from ‘Our Voices’ and it was a beautiful re-union.
The next stop was Connecticut, a quiet small town on the far east where I spent 5 days. This gave me time to relax from the busy week that had ended and to have the experience of living with a family. We cooked African food, took nature walks, visited friends living near the lake and had wonderful dinners. I loved Connecticut. I also took some time and travelled to New Haven to visit a friend.
On the second Sunday. I attended Mass at Saint James Roman Catholic Church in Connecticut and after mass, I got an opportunity to talk to the congregation about CYNESA. On Monday afternoon I travelled to Rhode Island, a two-hour train ride from Connecticut. This was a completely different environment. Rhode Island is a small town surrounded by many islands. People here know each other. Bill was waiting for me and I spent a wonderful 2 days here.
I attended 2 State meetings on Disaster Management with a particular focus on reducing the risk of flooding. I learnt some ideas such as mapping techniques which could be applied in Kenya.
I also had a short meeting with Bishop Thomas Tobin from the Diocese of Providence. I shared about our work with CYNESA and he was impressed. We talked about many different issues and he sent many greetings to CYNESA folks back in Africa.
Each evening during my stay in Rhode Island was well organized and I met different people who are making important contributions in their society.
As I conclude, I would love to share a remarkable experience I had in Saint Rose and Clement Church in Rhode Island. As I was saying a prayer to our Mother Mary, she kept glowing and glowing even more. One friend, Bill Patenaude, captured this on his cmaera. I was praying for my marriage life, my fiancée and my life ahead. This experience gave me strength to do more and pray more.
I am grateful for the opportunity to visit the States. Everyone I met was amazed at the work that CYNESA is doing in Kenya. This is a sign that there are bigger and greater things ahead. I would do this again!I say I big thank you to Patrick Carolan for the chance to be in the USA. God bless CYNESA.
Anne Kirori – firstname.lastname@example.org
Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA), Kenya.