By Sr. Carol De Angelo
Earth Day 2022 is Friday, April 22, 2022.
For me, advocacy work is about collaboration and building and strengthening mutually enhancing relationships. Advocacy work is accompanying others, as brothers and sisters, human and nonhuman, on the journey towards creating a flourishing life-sustaining Earth for our young and future generations. I include Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis’ newest encyclical, as a continuation of Laudato Si’. Both encyclicals break open the meaning of love and call us to expand and deepen our understanding of love with a call to action to build a culture of care and civilizations of love. We do this through advocacy borne of love.
Since Laudato Si’ was first published, the two key concepts that seem to be deeply interwoven into our advocacy work as Sisters of Charity of New York are integral ecology and ecological conversion. The members of our PJIC Committees see the issue they focus on, whether it be immigration, climate change, racism, voting, trafficking, etc. as interconnected and related to each other. The Immigration Committee as it focuses on root causes of migration is very aware of how changing weather patterns and more severe frequent storms are impacting the migration and refugee flow, especially from Central America. Our connection with one of our ministries, the Barbara Ford Peacebuilding Center in Quiché, Guatemala, has made us very aware.
As we email, write, call and sometimes, zoom with our legislators and other policy makers, we may mention Laudato Si’. But, more frequently we include in our conversation key points of Laudato Si such as: the interconnectedness of issues, and our responsibility as citizens and lawmakers to think of long-term implications with future generations in mind.
The use of Zoom during Covid-19 has allowed us to continue integrating Laudato Si’ into advocacy work. In September 2020, Sisters of Charity of New York sponsored a webinar with Metro New York Catholic Climate Movement (MNY CCM), Religious Organizations Along the River (ROAR) and Investor Advocates for Social Justice (IASJ). The webinar highlighted each group’s advocacy efforts in the context of Pope Francis’ call to us in Laudato Si’. Another hope for the webinar was to identify opportunities to network and collaborate.
Environmental groups and leaders often call upon us as Sisters of Charity of New York and as a member of ROAR (Religious Organizations Along the River) to communicate our views to public officials and agencies on environmental issues as well as issues relating to immigration, poverty, homelessness. This past year we wrote to both Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo and other NYC and NYS officials about CHPE – Champlain Hudson Project Express –a proposed 333-mile cable to be built (mostly under the Hudson River) that will carry electricity from Canada to New York City. This issue raised the consciousness of SCNY’s Creations Transformative Energy Committee, ROAR, and MNYCCM Steering Committee on how mega dams in Canada have negatively impacted the indigenous tribes there by destroying their livelihood, water, and lands. The proposed CHPE brings home the need for ecological conversion for its makes concrete how our use of electricity in downstate New York directly connects to indigenous tribes in Canada. This awakens a deep call to ecological conversion since my and other downstate New Yorkers’ lifestyles and use of electricity directly impact others living hundreds of miles away.
When Laudato Si’ was first published it was an exciting and promising time for those of us involved in peace and justice work. Many sisters, faith leaders, and environmental colleagues were already raising awareness, advocating, and addressing the needs of the Earth and her peoples. Laudato Si’ put into words what we were feeling, seeing, and experiencing in our relationships with so many vulnerable people and with Earth, herself.
As Sisters of Charity of New York, we have been engaged in water and land issues over the years, here in our Hudson River Bioregion, in Guatemala, nationally and globally. In recent years, we were part of the successful movement to ban fracking in New York State. This has turned out to be an ongoing movement to stop pipeline expansion and new fossil fuel infrastructure.
We value the relationship and leadership we have from so many environmental groups and leaders who are grateful for Laudato Si’ and the voice of faith-based groups such as the Sisters of Charity of New York and ROAR. Since Laudato Si’ was published, we have invited many of these environmental leaders to be panelists and presenters at meetings where connections are made between what they are doing and Laudato Si’. We have been blessed in our area to have environmental leaders who value incorporating prayer, Laudato Si’ quotes, faith leaders at vigils, rallies, protests and environmental hearings. These leaders are mentors to us in their leadership which for me embodies the call of Laudato Si’ – be it in advocating the safe closure of Indian Point Nuclear Energy Plant which includes a just work transition of its workers to advocating for safe clean water and waterways that recognize the rights of the water and the Hudson River to advocating for safe clean renewable energy.
Pope Francis talks about personal and communal conversion. I have found that the dedication, commitment, and values of my colleagues help me and my Congregation advocate and live into practical applications of integral ecology. Through them and our involvement and collaboration in advocacy work, the call to ecological conversion becomes clearer and concrete ways to live it open up.
We see beyond the issues to the cries of Earth and her peoples. We know how toxins and pollution are devastating Earth and the land, air and water and affecting the physical, mental, and spiritual health and wellbeing of the family of God, especially our children and future generations. Touched by what we see and hear, our minds and hearts are opened, moving us towards ecological conversion. Notice the “we” I have mentioned several times in this paragraph. The “we” is the community of colleagues that has formed. This community carries us forward and offers the inspiration, nourishment, strength, and courage we need to continue the journey towards integral ecology and ecological conversion.
Sister Carol De Angelo is Director for the Office of Peace, Justice & Integrity of Creation for the Sisters of Charity.