When the phone call came from one of the organizers of “Care for Creation: Hearing Earth’s Cry and Responding With Hope,” asking if Catholic New York would cover the daylong conference, my first question was to ask how many people were expected. The response was 40, not enough to get too excited about the prospect or give up part of a Saturday. Later in the day, an email confirmed that the number was up to 73, sufficient for me to say yes.
The conference was sponsored by Metro New York Catholic Climate Movement, which is coordinated by a self-described “team of Catholic leaders from parishes and organizations in the New York City metro area to network, engage, organize and sustain one another spiritually while addressing climate change, integral ecology and care for creation.”
When I arrived at San Damiano Hall at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan, where the Oct. 27 conference was held, late registrations—even on a chilly, rainy morning—boosted the number of participants to about 100. The Migrant Center of St. Francis of Assisi co-sponsored the conference.
Participants traveled from New York City, Westchester, Brooklyn, Queens, New Jersey, Connecticut and a few other spots to attend. The movement, in fact, collaborates with eight parish teams in the archdiocese, according to promotional materials. The metro group has produced a series of parish bulletin inserts, with suggested action steps, about Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical. The group, a local chapter of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, also collected signatures for the Catholic Climate Petition before the Paris Climate Summit.
However, the conference was the first time many of the group’s supporters met together in person, and it was clear they viewed the occasion as a big deal. It received support from the Campaign for Charity and Justice of archdiocesan Catholic Charities, which helped to make the meeting financially feasible.
The conference moderator was Sister Carol DeAngelo, S.C., who called the gathering “a day of reflection, and perhaps even action for all of us.”
Unfortunately, I was only able to stay for two sessions, the first being a well-informed panel on “Listening to the Cries of Creation.” In her remarks, which addressed “Our Planet Earth and Our Place in It,” Sister Carol said, “We gather as a people of faith…How can we as a grassroots movement move forward as a collective we?” During a break, Sister Carol shared her hope that more Catholics would bring the conversation about care for creation to their parishes.
It seems like the archdiocese took a big step in that direction with the pilot program on renewable energy in five parishes announced exactly three days after the Care for Creation conference (story on Page 3).
One of the people I was most wanted to talk with was the youngest person in the room. Adrianna Aviles, a junior at the Academy of Mount St. Ursula in the Bronx, got my attention when she asked organizers what they were doing to reach out to young people like herself.
Many of her peers don’t feel they can make an impact, so they let the responsibility pass to someone else. Adrianna said she would suggest that if Metro New York Catholic Climate Movement wants to reach a younger audience, it reach out via social media to invite them to an event where they can physically do something to show support. “There is a lot of interest in the environment and bettering society as a whole,” she said.
Adrianna also shared a personal environmental story with me. Her grandparents live in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria struck last September, it was hard for her family to reach them. The storm toppled trees and destroyed wildlife in their area, and for a time they came to New York until the situation in San Juan improved.
She said she misses them a lot. “I kind of want to call them when I get home,” she said.