By MegAnne Liebsch
September 20, 2019 — Organizing walkout protests, keeping classroom lights off, using reusable water bottles and writing their state representatives — these are some of the ways that Jesuit schools and organizations joined in today’s Global Climate Strike.
The movement, led by youth and students around the world, calls for decisive action from international governments to address climate change and care for “our common home.” For students at Jesuit high schools and universities across the U.S. and Canada, the strike was an opportunity to live out the environmental teachings of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ and the Society of Jesus’ Universal Apostolic Preferences.
United by their passion for environmental justice, climate strikers demanded that governments tackle climate change through reducing carbon emissions and fossil fuel dependency and promoting scientific innovation. The movement’s unofficial leader, 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, began striking from school every Friday, demanding those in power take action against climate change. September 20 marked a global day of striking from schools and workplaces, calling on world leaders to provide for a better future for younger generations.
For Ignatian organizations across the U.S. and Canada, the day was marked by prayer and protest in various forms.
In Washington, D.C., students from local Catholic schools gathered in prayer at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church before marching to the citywide rally. One of the leaders of the event and a student at Gonzaga College High School, Benjamin Campion, told Jesse Remedios at the National Catholic Reporter, “My message to adults regarding climate change is: Listen to your kids. You love them, you care about them and their future is on the line.” He urged adults to take action by divesting from fossil fuels, voting and talking to their leaders in Congress.
Video by Jesse Remedios, National Catholic Reporter
At the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, student activists rallied on the steps of the library before marching to their city hall to protest with other local students. Meanwhile, Loyola University students took to the streets of Chicago.
In solidarity with the protests, students and teachers at Saint Peter’s Preparatory School in Jersey City held a voluntary blackout, keeping their classroom lights off to conserve energy. Similarly, at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, students promoted resource conservation by using reusable water bottles and hosting a letter writing drive to lobby state representatives to take action on climate change.
Demanding change as part of the global strike on September 20, the Jesuit Forum for Social Faith and Justice in Canada joined community partners and students in the Ottawa Climate Strike. In a powerful speech, one student described how the earth’s air, water and land “are dying.”
A week later, on September 27, brothers and sisters from the Canadian Ignatian family took to the streets again, as Thunberg and indigenous activists led the Friday climate strike from Montreal on September 27. An estimated 500,000 protested in the city, including Jesuit provincial staff, Jesuit Refugee Service Canada and the Jesuit-affiliated Centre justice et foi. In Toronto, the Canadian Jesuits International Team, among others, marched to advocate for the protection of the Amazon rainforest.
The Canadian Jesuits International and Jesuit Forum teams protested in Toronto, Canada (Jesuits of Canada).
Staff at Centre justice et foi join in the Montreal march on September 27 (Jesuits of Canada).
Though student organized and inspired, many adults in the Ignatian family were called to support the strike in solidarity. Jesuits offered their prayers and encouragement on social media for the youth participating in this day of action, such as Cardinal-designate Michael Czerny, SJ, and Br. Ken Homan, SJ, who expressed gratitude for the protestors and stressed the threat climate change poses to our world.
I probably can’t make it to the #ClimateStrike tomorrow, but as a #Catholic and #Jesuit I want to offer deep prayers and gratitude for all those participating. #ClimateChange is perhaps the biggest threat our world faces, particularly impacting poor and Indigenous peoples.