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Catholic Youths Share Insights on Climate Change in Listening Session Project

June 3, 2024

From the Office for Social Ministry

“The poor and the earth are crying out. O Lord help us to protect all life, to prepare for a better future, for the coming of your Kingdom of justice, peace, love and beauty. Praise be to you! “Laudato Si’ On Care for Our Common Home” Pope Francis, May 24, 2015

 When Pope Francis released his encyclical Laudato Si nine years ago this May, he had the inspiring intention of echoing the teachings of his patron saint to protect and care for each other and our common home, listening to the voice of the most vulnerable in “the cry of the poor and the earth.” Laudato Si was inspired by a song composed by St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century called the Canticle of the Sun which pays tribute to God, our creator through the repetition of the Italian phrase, “Laudato Si or “Praise be to you.” The song in essence praises the Lord for the creation of the sun, moon, stars, wind, water and earth–and likens these elements to siblings in a shared family under God to emphasize our interconnectedness as one ‘ohana. Pope Francis’s Laudato Si, which calls for a major global shift in producing a better future for all in our common home, is still generating talk story sessions and pastoral collaborative action around the world.

One example is the Catholic Climate Covenant-(CCC), which works with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and is dedicated to integrating creation care into our church practices and ministries. A recent CCC report on its Vulnerable Young People on the Move (VYPM) Synodal listening session project shared insights from youth about how climate change affects their lives and how the Church can better serve them through those challenges. This “talk story project” gathered nine groups of more than 50 young migrants and other youth in parishes from across the US and Canada this past spring. This talk story process also involved the USCCB offices on the Synod process, Cultural Diversity in the Church, Offices, Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers, and the Ignatian Encounter Ministry. Participants got a chance to watch video testimonial stories from two young adult immigrants–one from Mexico and one from Nigeria–who shared heart-felt inspiring stories about the harsh realities and hopeful resilience of their experience in being forced to flee their homes because of climate-driven challenges such as drought and natural disasters. By reflecting on these stories and their own experiences, Catholic youth were able to discuss ways the Church could better address the immediate needs of vulnerable young people on the move. For many, climate change is an “invisible” destroyer of human dignity. So many have been left behind because of lack of funds or connections to ensure a successful and safe migratory journey. Many experience breakdowns in the family, or separation, which often leads to mental health issues, childhood trauma, and other harms. Some suggested solutions that emerged from the discussions included raising awareness among pastoral leaders on the intricate connections between climate change and migration; welcoming migrants into their parish community; providing financial aid and leadership roles in developing and sustaining engagement in the parish and offering activities to foster a sense of long-term belonging and community. They envisioned churches as sanctuaries of support and solidarity for all immigrants across all cultures, especially those suffering from climate grief.

 All agreed there is a clear need for a holistic approach to addressing migration, youth ministry, and climate change from a Catholic perspective. Let us continue to talk story and practice the power of real listening to accompany young adults as they navigate their futures in a climate-threatened world. May we continue to be inspired by the teachings of Laudato Si to fully welcome, protect, promote, and integrate our young migrants into the life and ministries of our Church. For more information on how is is being done and how to do this, please visit www.catholicclimatecovenant.org  and for more on how to hear and respond to the  cry of the poor and the earth, please read the full text of Laudato Si www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato which ends with the inspiring words  “O God teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.”  Mahalo