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Sept. 1 – This day has been declared by Pope Francis as World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. We offer the first of two reflections by our Sisters.

Walking with the People’s Climate Pilgrimage — One Step at a Time

“Aha” moments come in many different ways. One of my recent “aha” moments came on a morning walk around the grounds of Mount Saint Vincent.

I had been reflecting on Pope Francis’ recently published encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. In it the Pope calls each one of us to accept our moral responsibility to address climate change. He urges us to care for Earth and her peoples, especially those living in poverty who are most impacted by climate change.

The night before I had attended a local parish’s discussion about the message of Laudato Si.

With other gray-haired seniors who attended, at the end of a long day, I wondered what I could possibly do, in my own small way, to answer the Pope’s call.

This amazing spiderweb was found and photographed by Sr. Margaret Egan while walking on the grounds of Mount Saint Vincent.

This amazing spider web was found and photographed by Sr. Margaret Egan while walking on the grounds of Mount Saint Vincent.

Early the next morning on my walk I stopped to greet Sister Mary Aquin Flaherty, one of our wise elders and a frequent walker. Not even hip surgery has stopped her. One foot in front of the other, with a cane for support, Sr. Aquin climbs our hilly campus in Riverdale that overlooks the majestic Palisades and Hudson River to the west and the city of Yonkers to the north.

Her persevering steps up the steep hills suddenly reminded me of the People’s Climate Pilgrimage, sponsored by the Global Catholic Climate Movement and other faith-based groups. (Many people are walking from Rome to the Paris Climate Summit in December, with the prayer that world leaders at the Summit will decisively pledge to cut carbon emissions, for the sake of the Earth and its peoples. (Read more at https://catholicclimatemovement.global/ and www.peoplespilgrimage.org)

A pilgrimage — just like Sr. Aquin on her daily walk. I was moved to tell her that, in her own faithful, steady way, one step at a time, she was united with those on the People’s Climate Pilgrimage.

Sister replied by sharing that her first act each morning is to give thanks to God for the new day. She asks her guardian angel to bring her thanks to the throne of God. She sings to herself, “How Great Thou Art,” as she sees each blade of grass and tree and bird as praising God. She prays the Joyful Mysteries each day for people who are suffering anywhere in the world.

I walked away with joy and gratitude in my heart – gratitude for Sr. Mary Aquin, gratitude for the Sisters of Charity and Associates with whom I am privileged to journey, gratitude for Pope Francis and his encyclical Laudato Si’, gratitude for God’s gift of Creation. And it was all because of stopping to say good morning to a Sister on her daily walk!

Practice: Each of us in our unique way can share in the People’s Climate Pilgrimage, and express our care for Earth, our common home.

What is a place of beauty for you? Or a place that concerns you because of blight or devastation?

Visit it in imagination, if you cannot visit it physically. Take slow, mindful steps around it. Let your “one step at a time” be a prayer for Earth and its peoples, for world leaders, for each of us that we will find ways to do what we can, no matter how small it seems. Let us believe that we can do together what we cannot do alone.

Carol De Angelo, SC

carolDSr. Carol is Director of the Office of Peace, Justice and Integrity of Creation (PJIC) for the Sisters of Charity of New York.