Last month, our group of 30 students from Maryvale Prep (Catholic all girls High School), two teachers, and four parents traveled to Washington, DC on the eve of Pope Francis’ unprecedented speech to the Congress of the United States.
We participated in an Interfaith Prayer Vigil for the conversion of hearts and minds of members of Congress (and all of us) to better heed the message of the Holy Father. Since the publication of his encyclical, Laudato Si – On the Care For Our Common Home, Pope Francis’ central theme has been a call to global solidarity in response to extreme poverty and the increasing dangers posed by climate change and other environmental disasters.
We were greatly blessed to be afforded a private audience with Ms. Anne Kirori, who spoke passionately about the challenges her people in Kenya and other parts of Africa are encountering, given the effects of a warming planet. She also joyfully shared her Catholic faith and love for Pope Francis. Our students were deeply moved by Anne’s message of hope inspired by the work of her organization, Catholic Youth Network For Environmental Sustainability In Africa (CYNESA). They are also concerned about the blows of Global Warming to the tea crop, cattle, and other parts of the economy in Kenya, and what this means to families struggling to sustain a healthy diet.
I think we all ought to sense the need to be more conscious about our consumer habits and uses of energy. We also realize that the global community, especially the United States, must be prepared to generously assist the transition of peoples most in danger of climate change. This means many things- from accommodation of climate refugees to financial and technical assistance in the construction of renewable energy infrastructure, sustainable farming and climate change-resilient housing.
We have so much to learn from the people of Kenya and other vulnerable communities around the world. We look forward to staying in touch with CYNESA to help us become better informed about the most helpful practices and policies we can advocate for! And together let us pray for great success in the Paris Climate Talks this December!
In closing, one of the seniors, Madison, wrote on behalf of all the students who wonder what they can do in addition to keeping Kenyans in their prayers:
“When we think of environmental troubles in the United States, we call to mind images of smog infested cities and rivers of trash. But what about the rest of the world? What do their “green challenges” entail?
In the continent of Africa, the most detrimental aspect of climate change is the ever increasing soil aridity. As the soil becomes more arid, the ability to grow and maintain a system of biodiversity fails. But CYNESA is working to change that.
On September 23, I had the privilege of hearing Anne Kirori speak at an Interfaith Vigil for Pope Francis. Here, people of diverse faith communities came together to discuss the Holy Father’s message about our duty to care for God’s creation. Kirori spoke individually to my high school, Maryvale Preparatory, about CYNESA and what we can do to contribute to CYNESA and help our environment from here in the U.S.
Kirori had a wonderful message for members of our senior class, and I hope everyone truly heard and took to heart her presentation about CYNESA, so that together we can care for Creation as God intended.”
Doug Demeo, Theology teacher, Maryvale Preparatory School, Baltimore, MD.