Catholics bring Pope Francis' call to protect creation to climate march

IMAGE: Catholic News Service

By Dennis Sadowski

(CNS) — Carrying banners and signs with quotes from Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato
Si’,” hundreds of Catholics joined the People’s Climate March to call for
moral and prayerful action to protect creation.

On a
sweltering day that reinforced the message about the need to respond to climate
change — the 91-degree temperature at 3 p.m. April 29 tied a 43-year-old
Washington record for the date — many in the Catholic contingent said they
felt they had a moral obligation to witness in the streets.

march for our grandchildren. Stop global warming,” read one sign propped
up in the back of St. Dominic Church in Washington, where about 300 people
gathered before the march for Mass celebrated by Dominican Father Hyacinth Marie Cordell, the
parish’s parochial vicar.

Vatican is solar. What about US?” read another. “We resist, we build,
we rise,” read a sign from St. Francis and Therese Catholic Worker Community in Worcester,

the messages on the signs and banners were people who shared a heartfelt
concern to carry out Pope Francis’ call in his 2015 encyclical to live
responsibly with the planet, remember the needs of others around the world and
to reduce consumption and energy usage for the sake of God’s creation.

also wanted to send a message to President Donald Trump that his policies on
the environment and energy development do not follow the pontiff’s call to
protect Earth.

For Manny and Mary Hotchkiss, the
march was their second in two weeks. Both scientists, the couple from Portland,
Oregon, joined a regional March for Science in New Orleans April 22 as they
made their way on a cross-country trip to a meeting of Maryknoll affiliates in Ossining, New York.

the Mass, Mary Hotchkiss, 72, a chemist, said the couple’s involvement was
required by their Catholic faith. Manny Hotchkiss, 74, a mechanical engineer,
expressed dismay about the president’s policies.

most important thing I see with this political scene, and it brings a tear to
my eye to think about it, is that everything I tried to teach our kids growing
up (about science) is fully rejected by the current administration,” he said.

The 300
people at the Mass heard Father Cordell call for an “ecological
conversion” during his homily. He said each person must act in any way
possible to protect God’s creation: reducing energy usage; limiting waste;
choosing carpooling or biking and walking more; and buying less.

can learn increasingly to act not only with our own good and convenience in
mind, but above all to think and choose according to what is best for all,
especially for the poor and for future generations,” the Dominican said.
“This ecological conversion calls us to self-examination, to make an
inventory of our lives and habits so that we can learn to be better stewards of
our common home and its resources, which are meant for the good of all.”

He said
such steps require a revolution of the heart, as Pope Francis has called each
person to undertake. He described it as a “change toward responsibility
and virtue, a transition to thinking about the common good, future generations,
the poor, other living beings, God’s glory and the environment in all of our
decisions instead of thinking only in terms of a short-term, fleeting and
superficial good or convenience for ourselves.”

Sister Kathy Sherman, a member of
the Congregation of St. Joseph in LaGrange Park, Illinois, was pleased
to hear Father Cordell stress the encyclical’s themes.

feel like I’m marching for the children, for the future,” she told
Catholic News Service. “Earth is getting bad for us. If we don’t do
something there’s not going to be anything like we’ve known for the future
generations, and it breaks my heart.”

Other members
of Sister Sherman’s congregation joined a satellite march in Chicago, but she
made the trek to Washington on her own because she said she felt it was
important to take a message directly to administration officials.

think it’s so essential that we connect climate degradation with economic and
racial justice,” Sister Sherman added. “It’s just the whole sense of
the oneness.”

A large
banner mounted on a 12-foot bamboo pole carried by Malcolm Byrnes, 57, a member of St. Camillus
Parish in Silver Spring, Maryland, was one of several that quoted the pope’s
encyclical. It read: “We need to reject a magical conception of the market.”

have to bring things back into focus and see climate change as a human issue
involving all of humanity, especially the poor,” Byrnes said as he waited
for the Mass-goers to begin walking to the assembly point for faith communities
near the U.S. Capitol.

explained that Pope Francis’ words had inspired him to consider his own actions
in response to the divisive language the president and members of his
administration have used during the first 100 days in office.

have to be activist,” he said. “We have to continue to put the
pressure on and to be active. Doing it as a Catholic is ever more poignant for

organizers said the event had been planned as a follow-up to the September 2014
People’s Climate March in New York City before Trump’s election in November. The
April 29 march was led by indigenous people who already are facing disrupted
lives as the climate warms and causes drought and rising ocean levels.

march kicked off less than 48 hours after the Environmental Protection Agency
began to revamp its website, taking down pages devoted to climate science. The
agency said in a statement late April 28 that the information was “under

Some of
the Catholic marchers, a multicultural mix of young and old, families, and clergy,
religious and laity, said they never had been involved in such a massive event,
but that it was time to put their faith into action.

Rosio Ramirez, 58, a member
of St. Jerome Church in New York City, said as she waited for the march to
start that she decided to travel to Washington “for our rights.”

president does not believe in science, so I’m trying to raise my voice for my
grandson, his future,” said the native of Mexico City.

the march route on Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House, Nancy Lorence, a member of St. Francis Xavier Parish in
New York City, said personal actions are crucial if people of faith are going
to make a difference. She carried a colorful cardboard sunflower on a short
stick that read, “Catholics 4 the EPA,” one of 45 similar signs that
she and others making the trip had made.

feel like ‘Laudato Si”
calls us to be in the streets, as Pope Francis says, and be active on the social
justice issues and climate change,” Lorence told CNS.

read enough to really think that this is an emergency,” Lorence continued.
“It might not affect us directly right now. But I think we are all called
to think about the common good. We’re all called to think about the least of
these, and the people who are the least of these are being affected by climate

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Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

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