Bi-monthly e-newsletter giving witness to our Precious Blood Spirituality,
grounded in Catholic Social Teaching and Gospel values
Clean Water for Life
By Jen Morin-Williamson
Peace, Justice and Ecology Coordinator
This summer, I was in Italy and Switzerland during the record-setting heat and drought. In Rome, it didn’t rain for more than 50 days, with temperatures soaring into the high 90s. One day, I noticed many people stopping to take a picture of a pharmacy sign. That seemed quite unusual, so I investigated. They were taking pictures of the temperature flashing on the screen. It was 42 degrees Celsius. That is more than 107 degrees Fahrenheit! Read More
One of the legacies of the Roman Empire is the elaborate aqueduct system. As a result, all throughout Rome, there is an abundance of beautiful, sculptural, public fountains, as well as free, flowing, potable water spigots. Every person was able to stop and splash a little water on their face and neck to cool down, or fill up a water bottle or get a drink right from the pipe. I was enamored with the way you could plug the bottom of the faucet and then the water would squirt out of a little hole and make a drinking fountain. (But you had to be careful not to inadvertently drench a passerby with the sudden change in water direction!)
It seemed that, in Rome, we all took this water for granted, while other parts of Italy and Spain were literally on fire. They were experiencing wildfires like Americans do in the western portion of the United States. There can be no doubt: The climate of the entire world is changing and getting more extreme in many places.
In a message to the World Water Forum earlier this year, Pope Francis called access to clean water a “primary, fundamental and universal human right because it determines the survival of people.” Many of us have lived our entire lives with unrestricted, immediate access to clean water for drinking, cooking, bathing, recreation, and watering our gardens and lawns. Some Precious Blood Sisters can offer a different perspective. Read their reflections below — and then I suggest watching this video, “A Prayer for World Water Day,” produced by the Catholic Health Association of the United States.
Kenya and Ghana
By Sister Mumbi Kigutha, CPPS
The sight of women and girls trekking long distances to fetch water for their households is a common sight in many parts of rural Kenya. In urban areas, water bowsers, hand-drawn carts filled with 25-liter water containers pulled by young men, are also a common sight. Bucket baths are the norm for many Kenyans since water is a scarce and also expensive commodity for the majority of the population.
Pauline Siesegh, an aspiring Sister, talked with me about how people in her native country of Ghana respond to climate change. I asked about water, and she said it was all about trees. They also are experiencing extreme heat and drought in Ghana. Crops are dying. That means less food for the family and little to no income for any but the basic necessities. So trees are cut down to cook food, sterilize water and heat homes. There are many incentives to plant trees, and even punishment for not planting trees. Read More
According to UNICEF Kenya, 59% of Kenyans have access to safe drinking water, and 29% have access to basic sanitation. UNICEF Ghana reports that 76% of households in Ghana drink contaminated water.
Photo in slider above, children pump water from a well in Ghana; Yoel Winkler on Unsplash. Photo at right, woman in Ghana carries water bucket; Kayla Kozlowski on Unsplash
By Sister Noemí Flores, CPPS, and Sister Rita Manríquez, CPPS
Thanks be to God, during this past winter we have received rain, although with much cold — but nothing compared to the drought of the past 13 years. During 2021, there was a horrendous drought which affected biodiversity and the welfare of thousands of animals. About 50,000 animals were affected by the lack of rain. As for the human population, more than 6 million were affected — 38% of the population. Because of the drought, 72% of the land was affected by not having enough harvests. That is why we are so grateful for the rain, even though it is less than usual. The hope is that the melting snow and the rain will be sufficient for the coming summer. Read More
To read more about the drought in Chile, visit: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/01/chiles-water-crisis-megadrought-reaching-breaking-point.
Photo in slider above, Andes mountain range in Chile; Ricardo Díaz on Unsplash. Photo at right, Sister Noemí Flores stands on the beach in Chile; Sister Patty Kremer
By Sister Marie Kopin, CPPS
Michigan has been known for some time as the “Water Wonderland.” Without water, we have no life. Yet, many waters have become polluted and unclean from various human actions. There have been “invasives” and commercially produced toxins. Our task now is to keep our Michigan and world “Water Wonderlands” free from pollution. Even the purest of our lakes are becoming tainted, so we have more and more organizations educating us to prevent and remove pollution. No more do we want strange and even “evil” additions to our waters!
The same goes for our spirituality! As we grow throughout our lives, we are called to stay “purified,” and yet, on occasion we need to deal with various forms of “pollution.” But God gives me lots of ways to grow free of pollution and gives me ways to “clean up,” if only I thank God and praise God for these challenges! And when I ask for them, even more gifts of “cleanups” begin to happen. And guess what? Many of those gifts are surprises that only God can create! Read More
In one example in Michigan, thousands of residents of Flint have been affected by water contamination since 2013. The Natural Resources Defense Council provides this overview of the crisis there.
Photo in slider above, lake with trees; Ryunosuke Kikuno on Unsplash. Photo at right, contaminated water; Cristian Palmer on Unsplash
By Sister Joyce Kahle, CPPS
Water has been a part of our spiritual journey as Christians from before we were born and all throughout our journey of faith. We also know the importance of keeping our bodies hydrated and how essential water is for physical life. Here in Guatemala, water is often scarce. In many rural areas, women and children sometimes walk for a mile or more up and down hills every day with jugs and basins to get water from a stream or other source and bring it home for their families. Here in Guatemala City, in the area where we live now, water arrives during the night most nights, and we are fortunate to have a large cistern to hold it and an electric pump to bring it up to our second-floor showers. We use clay eco-filters to purify the water for drinking.
Many people don’t have cisterns and pumps, so they store as much water as they can in barrels or in the pila where they wash their clothes, and they boil their water to drink or buy bottled water. Climate change has brought drought to many areas, with not enough rain to grow crops. Sometimes too much rain washes away the homes of the poor on the hillsides, often causing families to die in the landslides. Read More
Some years ago, when we lived in another neighborhood that had water coming all day long, the heavy rains caused a large truck to slide down a hillside and break a water line in the area, cutting off the water supply to some streets. Our street still had water, and families lined up in front of our house with buckets, jugs, wheelbarrows and whatever else they could find to carry water home for the day. Everyone has a right to water, and we felt blessed to be able to give the families all that they needed of God’s precious gift.
According to USAID, Guatemala enjoys a wealth of natural resources, including abundant water; however, “surface water is unevenly distributed, seasonal, and often polluted, and only 61% of the water supply comes from a safely managed source.”
Photo in slider above, Sisters Terry Maher and Joyce Kahle with Sindy at the water pump in Guatemala; contributed. Photo at right, Sindy and Sister Terry Walter walk to the well; Sister Joyce Kahle
By Sister Terry Maher, CPPS
California is no stranger to drought conditions. I remember back in the mid ’70s commentators were asking people to do what they could to save water. It was my first time ever having to think about water and how to conserve it. How much did I take it for granted? It was an eye opener.
Like many of us, I learned to “watch” my use of water while doing dishes, brushing my teeth, doing laundry, showering — and all those everyday tasks in which I used water. It has stayed with me since. Read More
In the mid ’80s, drought conditions caused California residents to let their lawns go brown. Or they painted their grass green or installed artificial turf. A lot of folks laughed at the effort, but folks tried.
California’s current drought comes on the tail of a drought that lasted from 2012-2016. This current drought is about three years old and is affecting 37.3 million people, 95% of the population of the state of California. Also affected by this drought are the states of Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Most of these states receive their water supply from the Colorado River, which is only 40% full. Other surrounding lakes and rivers are less.
So, again, the residents are being asked to be mindful of water usage. In some ways it feels like the “same ol’, same ol’.” Yet here we are. As I drive to and from my place of ministry, I see yards in front of people’s houses going brown. I see trees going limp, leaves wilting. I see citrus groves dying.
As I observe this, I am aware of Jackson, Mississippi, where residents have water but cannot drink it, bathe in it or cook with it. I am reminded of Flint, Michigan, where residents also went through a water crisis several years ago. I think of Pakistan experiencing flooding. I think of people who live in areas where they need to get water from a well or river to cook, bathe, drink — tasks that I can so easily take for granted.
Water was created after the light separated light from dark and the dome in the middle of the waters was created to separate the water above from the water below. From there life was created (Genesis 1-9). I ponder water as the lifeblood of the earth and our call to ponder the Precious Blood as the source of life. It leaves a lot of think about as I continue to become aware of how much water I might waste in a day.
Forty-five percent of the continental U.S. is currently experiencing drought conditions. To learn more, visit drought.gov, the website of the National Integrated Drought Information System.
Photos in slider above and at right, California drought; Ross Stone on Unsplash
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