Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Climate Change: A Matter of Faith for Sisters of St. Joseph and all Christians

There’s an often quoted prayer that begins "Christ has no hands but our hands, to do His work today, He has no feet but our feet to lead us in His way." Today I’m blogging about Climate Change from the perspective of faith. I’m blogging about this because as a Catholic and as a Sister of St. Joseph, my commitment to the teaching of the Church and to the spirituality of my congregation calls impels me to this. Almost two years ago the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph issued a statement about climate change that in part reads:
As the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph andAssociates, “we live and work that all may be One.” We are concerned for all of God’s creation and our sisters and brothers everywhere. Earth, which reflects God’s glory, is in great peril. We accept scientific evidence that climate change is happening and is caused by human activity.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its February 2007 report states: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.” We accept our responsibility to find solutions to this devastation of Earth, and to act accordingly and immediately.

Pope John Paul II wrote, “Faced with the widespread destruction of the environment, people everywhere are coming to understand that we cannot continue to use the goods of the Earth as we have in the past . . . a new ecological awareness is beginning to emerge.”(The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility, Dec. 1989)

Climate change is a global issue which affects all creation. The United States alone adds almost six billion tons of carbon dioxide every year to the atmosphere. This seriously contributes to climate change. All creation suffers the consequences.

Our Church reminds us: “The consequences of climate change . . . will impact first and foremost the poorest and weakest who, even if they are among the least responsible for global warming, are the most vulnerable because they have limited resources or live in areas of greater risk.” (Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Vatican Representative to the United Nations, May 10, 2007)

I don’t claim to be an expert on climate change. But this Saturday, October 24 a group called 350.org is coordinating the most widespread day of environmental action in history. Over 4,000 events are planned in 170 countries -- to call for a solution to the climate crisis: reducing the level of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere
below 350 parts per million. 350.org is an international campaign dedicated to building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis—the
solutions that science and justice demand. The mission is to inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis—to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet.

I’m really just learning the details of this event. The 350.org message--that those
three digits are the most important number on the planet--has spread rapidly
in the 18 months since scientists first published the finding that 350 parts per million (ppm) is the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Now, activists on every continent are preparing for the most widespread day of climate action ever, a global event designed to send a charge into this December's United Nations
Climate Meetings in Copenhagen.

As Sisters of St. Joseph part of our mission is to reach out to the Dear Neighbor without distinction. There are many ways to enflesh “without distinction.” When
a woman in our neighborhood was in the hospital a few months ago, we reached
out by assuring her of our prayers, visiting and sending cards. This is how we
usually think of reaching out to the neighbor. But “without distinction”
means lots of things – being attentive to the marginalized, the underserved, the
outcast is a big part of it. But when we broaden our horizons a bit, our prayer
and action for the Dear Neighbor without distinction becomes the whole Earth and
all that sustains life among us.

It’s out of this understanding that realizing how our consumption of Earth’s resources is affecting the Dear Neighbor without distinction. While the values Jesus taught remain the same, the needs have expanded. Suddenly the whole issue of Climate Change becomes a matter of faith. If Jesus were around to witness what’s going on in terms of Climate change today, I wonder what he’d do.

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