“This Good Work” is the Congregation’s bi-monthly e-newsletter to give witness to Precious Blood Spirituality through the lens of social justice, rooted in Gospel values and Catholic social teaching. In it we share real, legitimate information and ways Sisters are thinking about and living out many issues of peace, justice and ecology. This is curated by Peace, Justice and Ecology Coordinator Jen Morin-Williamson and features articles by Sisters.
Laudate Deum — the “sequel” to Laudato Si
By Jen Morin-Williamson, Peace, Justice, and Ecology Coordinator
On October 4, the feast of St. Francis, Pope Francis delivered his follow-up to the encyclical Laudato Si, which was released eight years ago. He aptly titled it Laudate Deum, which translates to “Praise God.” In this new apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis unequivocally states that our response to Laudato Si has been insufficient and that human beings are undeniably impacting the climate. Pope Francis makes the shift from referring to “climate change” to recognizing it as a “climate crisis.” This change in terminology is significant, as it emphasizes the importance of acting now in significant ways to reduce humans’ impact on the earth. Read More
He urges us to set aside any disbelief in the climate crisis, emphasizing the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists that human actions are significantly impacting the climate. The consequences of this will persist for centuries, leading to increased devastation from global warming, flooding, drought and extreme weather if we do not act now. The damage has already been done, and we must not continue down this destructive path. He sternly chastises those who have not taken this crisis seriously. He also calls out wealthy nations, including the United States, noting for example that emissions per individual in the United States are about two times greater than those of individuals living in China, and about seven times greater than the average of the poorest countries.
Pope Francis uses two terms that are not very common for us to ponder with regard to our attitude about, and role in, the climate crisis: “meritocracy” and “technocratic paradigm.”
A meritocracy is a social or political system in which positions of power, opportunities and rewards are distributed based on individual merit, skills, abilities and achievements rather than factors like social class, wealth, family background or other arbitrary criteria. In a meritocratic system, individuals are theoretically given equal opportunities to succeed, and their advancement is determined by their talents and efforts. However, in reality, bias and inequality exist, making it nearly impossible for people without privilege to succeed. Pope Francis writes, “In this perverse logic, why should they care about the damage done to our common home, if they feel securely shielded by the financial resources that they have earned by their abilities and effort?” (32)
The technocratic paradigm is a way of approaching governance and decision-making where experts make decisions based on scientific, technical and data-driven expertise. This can be problematic because it concentrates power in the hands of a few select people with enormous power and wealth; it sidelines the broader population’s voices; diminishes social and ethical considerations and accountability; and exacerbates social inequalities. Pope Francis says, “Not every increase in power represents progress for humanity.”
Pope Francis calls on all people, especially Catholics, to step up and make a positive change in the fight against climate change. He reminds us that it’s not just about our belief, but our moral responsibility to take care of the planet and all living beings, especially those who are most vulnerable. He also emphasizes the importance of participating in our communities and influencing political power at various levels (national, regional and municipal) to protect the environment. As nearly 200 countries participate this November in events like COP28 (the United Nations Climate Change Conference), Pope Francis stresses the need for drastic and intense changes that require the commitment of all nations.
Pope Francis concludes by reminding us that “human life is incomprehensible and unsustainable without other creatures” (67). This interconnectedness is divine, and it requires us not only to embrace our responsibility toward the environment, all living creatures and future generations, but to commit to action as well.
Climate crisis — and hope? — in Colorado
By Sister Benita Volk, CPPS
Sister Benita is a volunteer with EarthLinks, a nonprofit that addresses homelessness and poverty through Earth-centered programming.
Climate change is affecting every corner of our beautiful earth. Colorado, where I’ve lived since 1965, is certainly no exception. Having lived here for more than 50 years, I’ve had a front-row seat to the effects of climate change in the Rocky Mountain West. Though these effects are evident in many ways, I’ll focus on two of the most obvious: fire and water.
Because the winters have become considerably warmer than in the past, a pesky critter called the pine beetle has survived its larva stage and grown into a full-fledged pine-eating machine. Consequently, thousands of acres of pine trees have been killed. It’s heartbreaking to see miles and miles of hills that used to be covered with healthy, green pines, now filled with dead trees. These dead trees easily become kindling for fire that can start with anything from lightning to a spark from a passing vehicle. Once a fire starts, it is difficult to control because of the mountain terrain. These fires are now occurring almost year-round. Read More
But recently we’ve witnessed something even more frightening than wilderness fires. The Marshall Fire of 2021 occurred in an urban area between the cities of Denver and Boulder. It started as a grass fire on very dry ground and became totally uncontrollable because of strong winds. The firefighters could do nothing except warn people to run and to run fast. Before a very welcome snowfall happened and the winds died down, an entire city had been completely destroyed.
Besides the threat of immense wildfires, another effect of global warming in Colorado is water — or actually, the loss of water. Colorado has very little rainfall and relies on melting snowpack for water. But because the winters are becoming warmer and warmer and producing less and less snow, we have less and less water. Reservoirs are drying up; rivers are running low. All farming in Colorado uses irrigation. As the sources of water diminish, farmers are forced to produce less food, creating higher prices at the market and less income to farmers. Life on earth cannot survive without water, and here in the Rocky Mountain West, dire consequences are knocking at our front door.
But as I write this, I glance out my window and see that, even though the skies are bright blue and very dry, the far peaks of the mountains are glistening with early snow.
Sowing seeds of life and love
By Holly O’Hara
Holly is communications coordinator and a restorative justice practitioner at the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago.
“When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves.” —David Orr
As we know, the climate crisis is impacting every corner of our world, but it’s important for us to see how the burden is being heavily placed on the poor. Here in the Back of the Yards — the Chicago neighborhood where the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation is located — we feel its impact daily: heat waves, droughts, poor air quality from smoke and chemicals, skyrocketing food prices, unsafe drinking water, etc. A community that already struggles under health, financial and social injustices is being further buried by the impacts of climate change. Read More
Sister Carolyn Hoying, CPPS, is attentive to this cry of the poor and the cry of the Earth, and responds as a life-giving, reconciling presence through her work on the urban farm at PBMR. The urban farm is made up of over 70 raised beds built atop an abandoned parking lot. Out of these cracks of concrete, she and the team help cultivate over 6,000 pounds of fresh, healthy, affordable food for the neighborhood annually.
Sister Carolyn shares that neighbors come to the farm for all kinds of healing: to find food to feed their families; to learn how to grow fresh produce; to be in the presence of someone who cares; or sometimes just to breathe a little easier in a place of peace and beauty. “The care we show the plants is the same care that we share with the people: love, tenderness, constant nourishment, patience,” she said. “It’s important for people to be able to come to the garden and just talk about where they are or what they need. We listen to their stories; hear their pain.”
When we hear the cry of the blood — the cry of the poor and the cry of our Earth — we are invited to listen to the pain, attend to the brokenness, and till the soil for new life to take root. Sister Carolyn marvels, “God is in all of it — the beauty, the gift, the healing, the new life!”
Photo at right, Sister Carolyn Hoying holds blackberries from the urban farm at PBMR; photo in slider above, Sister Carolyn with a volunteer the urban farm at PBMR; contributed photos
Climate turmoil in “the Land of Eternal Spring”
By Sister Theresa Walter, CPPS
Sister Terry is co-director of Casa Sofia, our residence for university students in Guatemala City.
When I first came to Guatemala in 1994, the country was proudly called “the Land of Eternal Spring.” The rainy season, from May through October, was predictable, with afternoon or evening thundershowers and dry mornings. September sometimes had a hurricane or two that affected the coasts; but otherwise, predictable. The dry season was chilly in December, and the hottest month was typically April.
In 2020, there were two damaging hurricanes that affected Guatemala in November — Eta and Iota — two weeks apart. They caused extensive flooding in the eastern part of Guatemala. These days, the rainy season seems to be mostly fueled by hurricanes, and the normal weather patterns in Guatemala have almost disappeared. Read More
The central part of Guatemala, running from north to south, is part of the Dry Corridor of Central America, an area which has always tended to experience drought. With the increases in global temperatures, that region is hotter and dryer than ever. The areas closer to the Caribbean are the ones most affected by flooding.
Guatemala does not have soil-conserving practices in place. The cane fields in the south are still routinely burned off every year. Burning fields has been the practice for generations, even on highland farms. Water is not conserved. There is little crop rotation. Practices were not good to begin with. Now, with the globally generated changes in climate, the situation is only becoming worse.
So now there are poor or no harvests in many areas. Those who already subsist on little have less. One farmer’s story is highlighted in the article “Hungry and Desperate” from NBC News.
The changes in climate and lack of food have resulted in serious health consequences in Guatemala. At our small boarding school, we had a young woman who came to study last year who had been severely malnourished. She was unable to learn, even with proper nourishment and medical care. The damage had been done.
Many analysts have shown the direct link between climate change in Guatemala, and all Central America, and increases in migration. Even so, “climate migration” still has not been defined, much less accepted as a valid reason to migrate. Nevertheless, with poor harvests, worsening health, hurricanes, flooding and landslides, as well as costly failed attempts to migrate, the need to migrate will only increase.
For more information, visit:
• “In a Warming World, Hunger Stalks Guatemala’s Mayan Highlands,” Reuters, Oct. 12, 2023
• “Climate Change in Guatemala: Between Starvation and Migration,” NBC News, Dec. 16, 2021
• “Hungry and Desperate: Climate Change Fuels a Migration Crisis in Guatemala,” NBC News, Sept. 22, 2021
“Mycologists have more “FUN-gi”!
By Sister Marie Kopin, CPPS
Sister Marie is a life member of the North American Mycological Association and winner of two national awards.
As a longtime mycologist in the central Michigan area, being outdoors in nature is one of the great joys of my life. The fall colors here in Isabella County are just beautiful and astounding, which always brings me closer to God. While so many days are busy and full of “to-do” lists, every now and then I just have to take time off to stop and “merge” with this beautiful, Godly atmosphere.
It was so beautiful to go out the last three weeks. I had quite a number of folks go to several preserves with me to study mycology and many things that grow in the woods. The community of fellow nature lovers — and, of course, the mycelium of mushrooms — is another way I feel like I am part of God’s creation. Read More
The mycelium is somewhat similar to a root structure. They say that 95% of plants have connections with mycelium; it must connect with another plant or tree, and the tree or plant connects back with the fungi. I find this process very similar to how we humans live, because we need connections with other people, animals and plants, or we do not live, either. (For more info, and to see mushrooms and mycelium growing, watch the movie Fantastic Fungi.)
This also reminds me of the Precious Blood of Jesus, because blood is a connective thing in our lives, too. It is life-giving — and Jesus’ blood gives us eternal life.
This time of the year really is one of the best to go out and see, and be with, the fungus and other plants that are coming to maturity before the frost comes. (There are mushrooms and fungi that come in the cold weather, too, but fewer of them.)
So get out and have some “FUN” with “FUNgi”!
Photo at right, Sister Marie Kopin (seated at left) in a pavilion at the Ingalls Forest preserve near Tawas, Michigan. She works with a foresters’ group from two counties that manages this preserve; photo in slider above, Sister Marie (center, orange hat) displaying the mushrooms found at a site north of Ingalls Forest, Michigan; contributed photos
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