Disturbed and distressed: that’s how I would describe my reaction to the recent decision by the Trump administration to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, especially at a time when the gifts of our Earth are jeopardized and need of our commitment to respond.
I am a Sister of Mercy and in response to this decision and to all threats to our earth, I will join hundreds of Sisters of Mercy on June 23 in Buffalo, to walk to the waterfront where we will honor the sacredness of water – a precious gift. My congregation of 2,800 Roman Catholic women, is dedicated to service, advocacy and prayer for those in need. We commit our lives to responding to the needs of our time. One of our critical concerns is Earth—working toward the sustainability of life and supporting movements to address sustainability and climate change.
Now is the time to show our care for our Earth, for the principles described by Pope Francis in his Encyclical Laudato Si’ and to our concern for securing the fundamental right to water for everyone as a key component of sustainability.
As Catholic sisters, we respond to issues with our actions, but also in prayer, in discernment and with great reverence for the gifts God has given us. The rhythm of contemplation and action is at the heart of our vocation to mercy. In a symbolic prayer ritual, we will walk together from our gathering place in Buffalo to the Canalside site at the terminus of the Erie Canal and near the Great Lakes, the largest body of fresh water on Earth. The protection and preservation of these waters is integral to the lives of all living creatures—those inhabiting the waters as well as those on land.
Members of local indigenous tribes, local water protectors and others who share our commitment to preserving the sacred gifts of our Earth will accompany us on a silent, reflective walk to Canalside. The only sound will be the drumming of our indigenous brothers and sisters.
Sisters who have traveled from all the areas of the world where we live and minister--the U.S., Latin America, Jamaica, Guam and the Philippines—will have carried with them on their journeys vials of water from their homes, the sacred gift and lifeblood of their communities. As we gather together in prayer, sisters will pour the waters together to blend them in a gesture of promise to preserve the earth. In a final symbol, the waters will be sprinkled over those gathered in blessing and in promise to care for creation. The water, the words, the blessing, our silence together will be a sacred space to listen to the word of God.
Our concern for water will not end after our prayer that day, but will move to action as it has so many times in our history. We have acted when legislatures and others have failed to safeguard environmental rights. We address this issue in the offices of local and state legislators, as well as in the halls and offices of Congress. We have protested in front of utility trucks in Detroit to prevent water cut offs to those living in poverty. We have fought for justice for those harmed by neglect of water systems in Flint, Michigan.
We stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and those affected by the Dakota Access Pipeline. In Panama, we accompany indigenous people in their fight against the construction of a hydroelectric dam which would kill the fish, endanger wildlife and decimate their way of life. In Honduras, we mourned with citizens who know what it means to fight with your life for indigenous water rights after environmental activist Berta Caceras was murdered for her efforts to protect them. Mercy Global Action, the advocacy arm of the Sisters of Mercy at the United Nations, attended the Paris climate agreement meetings, renewing our determination to realize a more sustainable planet for all people, everywhere.
We invite all to join with us, either in prayer or in action by sharing our prayer resources for water; signing up to become Mercy Advocates for Earth; and calling or emailing your members of Congress. Currently, members are considering proposals to eliminate federal programs aimed at restoring the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound, as well as cutting funds to the Environmental Protection Agency office that determines standards for the amount of acceptable pollution in drinking water. We pledge our prayer, support, and actions in cooperation with others working to achieve a more just and equitable world through reverence for Earth.
“Clean water is a human right, not a privilege for some,” says Pope Francis in his encyclical, Laudato Si’. “The poor should not have to make do with unclean water, water made so by wasteful and careless consumption of resources.” Pope Francis challenges us to care for our common home and advocate for every person’s fundamental right to water. Accept this challenge and pledge your prayer, support and actions! “May we continue to work untiringly for the restoration of our Earth and for the restoration of the full dignity of all your people. May we proclaim in our words and in our actions that every human person has a fundamental right to clean water.”
– concluding prayer for Canalside Walk for Water in Buffalo, New York, June 23, 2017