BY MARY KING February 16, 2017

“To change everything, we need everyone.”

This climate change slogan emerged prior to the release of Pope Francis’s landmark encyclical, Laudato Si’. Then, Pope Francis reiterated the prophetic plea by breaking with tradition in the opening line of the document. Unlike all previous encyclicals, which are addressed to the Catholic community or hierarchy, Laudato Si’ is addressed to “all people of goodwill”.  

Addressing climate change and the inequities which drive it calls for broad based coalitions, human agency at every level, and building bridges between sometimes disparate groups.

Laudato Si’ highlights the interconnectedness of the complex  justice issues of our time. It is not simply about climate, rather it is a clarion call to everyone, to uphold human life, and human dignity in all its forms. One mark of success of the Ignatian Carbon Challenge will be the increase in conversations, relationships, and collegiality between our schools and networks, as well as within our schools, departments, and individuals in our own school communities.  

The Cheverus High School community wrote 32 letters and made 16 phone calls to elected officials.

“To change everything, we need everyone.”

This January, Cheverus High School students, faculty and staff came together to write letters and make phone calls to various elected officials.  In our letters and phone calls, we articulated many of the  justice issues addressed in Laudato Si’— concerns about the environment, the EPA, the Dakota Access Pipeline, preservation land, and environmental justice to name a few.  But we also spoke of refugees, immigrants, education and civil rights. The event was hosted by our Ignatian Family Teach-In Group, our Outdoor Club and our Civil Rights Team—we formed  our own broad based coalition. As we planned our after school advocacy session we learned from a top aide that many Senators consider one letter equivalent to 99 constituent voices.  We also learned that phone calls to staffers and representatives are even more effective than letters in making our voices heard. Coming together as a community to voice our concerns was both effective and hopeful.  

Students at letter writing stations. Each station had information about advocacy topics, and reminders about foundational Catholic Social teaching. Tally was kept of of letters written and calls made and key phone numbers and addresses were posted around the room. At each writing station were the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Have you written your elected officials?

What groups could host an advocacy day at your school?

What issues are at stake in your community?

What coalitions could you form that would be both personally enriching, and effective for change making?

How can you and your community shine some light in places that seem dark?

“We in America do not have government by the majority–we have government by the majority who participate… All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”  Thomas Jefferson

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