I’m Alenka and I’m a medical student in Slovenia, a small country in Europe. It is a very beautiful country with a lot of natural sites/monuments and I’m thankful that it is my home. You are supposed to take care of your home; that has been the logic for me for a long time and has gotten me interested in ecology for a long time!
When I heard that Pope Francis had released the encyclical Laudato Si’ I said to myself: “Alenka, this is going to be the first church document you are going to read!” And I did read it and it made a huge impression on me – it was not complicated to read, it summarized problems we are facinc, stressed the interconnections of everything and it was full of encouragement.
Last year, I attended World Youth Day in July in Poland, and also participated in Magis – a Jesuit program for young people. There I saw a stand about ecology and of course, I went to check it out. It was CYNESA’s and I met Allen there who told me that there would be a place dedicated to Laudato Si’ in Krakow during the WYD – the GCCM Laudato Si’ Eco Village. Of course, I searched for it in Krakow and I was very happy that I did. It was a really rich experience for me and it showed me in practice how the care for our common home can bring people together. There were more stands from ecological projects and organizations all around the world and a meditation park with meditations from Laudato Si’ and a “prayer tree” where you could hang your prayers for creation. I also attended a workshop which was about how we can try to spread the word about taking care for our common home by our personal testimonies. I met a group of people there from all around the world and it was such a great feeling spending time with them because we all had something in common – a desire to care for our common home.
Pope Francis had wonderful encouraging speech at the WYD Vigil on how youth shouldn’t be young “couch potatoes” I felt that I can draw courage from this meeting, this enthusiasm from WYD to try and spread around the word about Laudato Si’ in my country, Slovenia among young people, on Slovene Catholic Youth Day in September, with something similar to what I had experienced in Laudato si’ Eco Village.
So I don’t know where I got this courage and strength to actually pull it off, but I had support from my family and two of my friends and one priest. I trust the main strength was coming from God, helping me to just know that I can do it and try to do everything but also to put it in His hands if it isn’t meant to be.
God’s providence helped a lot – first there was no answer from the organizers, I had to call (and I dread calling unknown people), then there was no place for my idea (I even went to see the actual place so I could suggest to them where they can squeeze it in). But it all got sorted out.
Inspired by meditations I thought of some more and prepared a “prayer-vine-tree” (there wasn’t any actual tree) and then people could just walk around the stations and join for the prayer or also have a talk. This is a picture of prayer-wine-tree and our little group – we shared some thoughts about what worries us, our experience, and I also presented them with what I learnt from the workshop.
There wasn’t many people coming, because it was the first time that anything like that happened, but it was great to see those who came.
This was four months ago, and the studies started and I was left questioning everyday how to live Laudato si’ in my life – how I stubbornly ride my bike in rain and try to remember to refuse a plastic bag in shops and walk the stairs. Of course when I look around I see there’s so much to do that hasn’t been done, that I don’t do – then I get really discouraged. I forget that everything that is done counts:
Laudato Si’ 212:
“We must not think that these efforts are not going to change the world. They benefit society, often unknown to us, for they call forth a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread. Furthermore, such actions can restore our sense of self-esteem; they can enable us to live more fully and to feel that life on earth is worthwhile.”
Even though it is hard sometimes, I trust that “often unknown to us” some things spread. So I must not give up hope, we must not give up hope and the beautiful message of Laudato Si’ can help us.
Alenka Bahovec, SLOVENIA.