A Generation of Care for Our Common Home?


A Generation of Care for Our Common Home?

When was the last time you heard your congregation break out in spontaneous applause after a Sunday sermon?

It last happened in my church, after parishioners quite unexpectedly responded to a moving reflection on ecological justice. The message was delivered by Sunita De Souza, a teenager!

Of course, most Catholics want to show we are concerned about the environment. And most parishes are desirous of seeing more young people come to church. But we seldom make the connection! Nonetheless, Canada’s national synthesis report for the Synod on Synodality reported that, “many of their concerns – such as ecology and respect for creation – find little resonance in the language of parish communities, even though Pope Francis has emphasized these concerns in his letter Laudato si’.”

So how might our faith communities be renewed by the inspired energy of concerned youth, engaged in the ministries of what Francis has called “integral ecology?”

I just received a copy of a new book: Generation Laudato Si; Catholic Youth on Living Out an Ecological Spirituality – and I did not go to sleep until I had finished it! (Honestly, I have not stayed up late, enthralled by a book like this, in years!) It is amazing to read the words of such wonderful youth leaders and to learn what they are thinking – and how they are acting – to create a better world.

Written entirely by youth (aged 17 to 35) from 20 countries, co-editor Rebecca Rathbone explains that the unique feature of this project is that “it connects you with the perspective of young people by young people.” She emphasizes that youth represent the largest demographic on Earth (half the world’s population is under 30 years old.) Ask yourself when was the last time your faith community was opened to their thoughts and dreams? These prayers, poetry, short essays, and reflections of committed youth address the challenges of lifestyle choices, the allure of technology (like their omnipresent smartphones) education opportunities and how youth are making systemic change happen at a time when many ask, “Why bother? What difference does it make?”

Some Catholic leaders have already made the decision to do everything they can to make sure this text gets the widest circulation possible – one bishop has ordered copies for every young pilgrim his diocese is preparing for travel to World Youth Days this summer in Portugal. Some school trustees, teachers, chaplains, and vocation directors are planning to share these reflections so they can be considered and deepened. I really look forward to (several) launch sessions on-line where we can listen to some of the authors impart their wisdom in real time.

This exciting project is much more than a book. A website has been launched www.generationls.com and the conversation can be followed and continued on Twitter and Instagram @GenerationLS. A French translation is in preparation before WYD. The book can be ordered at Generation Laudato Si – en-novalis

On March 20th, the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change reported that in 2019, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere were higher than at any time in at least two million years. The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres called for increasingly radical steps, like the immediate global phase down of existing coal, oil and gas production. Surely there is no time to waste. Yet the pathways to environmental justice are many. The inspiration of Catholic Social Thought as expressed through new movements of young activists can lead us to all become part of the Laudato Si generation.

(Full disclosure: the Centre Oblat contributed a small amount ($500) and is mentioned therein among the project donors.)

By Joe Gunn – Executive Director – Le Centre Oblat: A Voice for Justice