NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. — On Sept. 26, 17 parishes in the Diocese of Prince Albert attended the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace’s Annual General Meeting and workshop, which was held at St. Joseph Calasanctius Parish.
After opening prayer and introductions, participants were led through an icebreaker activity. Participants asked each other questions such as, “Do you use a cloth shopping bag?” or “Did you carpool to get here?” Participants who answered “yes” were allowed to move ahead. The objectives were to better understand the reality of climate change and to prepare for the fall campaign.
Armella Sonntag, Saskatchewan animator for Development and Peace, spoke about the upcoming Conference of Parties (COP21) meeting in Paris Dec. 15. The symposium aims to achieve a legally binding universal agreement on climate change in an effort to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius. Participants were asked what the responsibility of each person would be to prepare. One action they agreed upon is prayer, which is planned across the country.
Activities during the meeting were based on Pope Francis’ social encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home. Small groups studied the effects of climate change in the global south, focusing on three countries: the Philippines, Honduras and Ethiopia. Conversations centred on the natural disasters that citizens of these countries have lived through and continue to experience.
Testimonial videos were shown, including one from Ethiopia, where mining has ravaged the land. An individual in the video said, “We can live without gold; we cannot live without water because water is life.”
Sonntag then asked the participants to break into small groups. She asked the groups to discuss what could be done as climate change leads to many dilemmas. The small groups shared their ideas on what they felt were Dilemmas and Dreams. The dreams were all over the map; possibilities were far-reaching and creative.
After a lunch provided by participants in that day’s walk to support the Right to Life Association, the Prince Albert Diocesan AGM began. Leadership reflection and elections were held. Appreciation was expressed to those completing their time of service. Volunteers came forward to fill vacant positions and were promised support and encouragement in their new roles.
Diocesan social justice director, Louis Hradecki, presented his report about the current refugee situation. Discussion surrounding this crisis resulted in encouragement to join with others in our community in raising funds and taking concrete action to help refugees. Discussion on the recent decision on euthanasia and end-of-life issues followed.
Chris Hrynkow, assistant professor at St. Thomas More College at the University of Saskatchewan, closed the meeting. He spoke on Pope Francis’ prayerful action for the Care of Our Common Home. His speech focused on Laudato Si’, a Catholic teaching and a call to all people as children of mother Earth. Hrynkow described the encyclical’s teaching as down-to-earth, “presented in a readable tone and an invitational style.”
“Earth is presented as our sister and mother, and described as burdened and laid to waste. Pope Francis calls us to heal broken relationships on social, political, structural, personal and ecological levels.”
Described as a down-to-earth and inspiring speaker himself, Hrynkow spoke on Pope Francis’s call to green action to all people. He emphasized Pope Francis’s concern for people living in poverty, coupled with care for our sister Earth made poorer by human abuse.