SMC students, community gather for climate strike
Colleen Fischer | Monday, September 30, 2019
The Sisters of the Holy Cross, students at Saint Mary’s and community members opened their “For a Global Green Committee” event Friday by singing the lyrics, “We are striking for the world,” in the tune of popular church hymn, “Siyahamba,” or “We are marching.” The song demonstrated their intent to join together in the hope of educating and creating climate change policies.
The students and part of the staff involved were originally meant to complete a march through campus — joining marchers around the world during the week — but due to weather, it was canceled.
Students still walked across campus from Madeleva Hall to the Lily O’Grady Center with their hand-painted posters, made with recycled cardboard, while the storm ranged on. Although junior Annie McGuire’s poster was tucked under her rain poncho and wrapped in a plastic bag, she and other students still attended the event where the sisters and professors shared their knowledge of climate change.
The students attended the event for a multitude of reasons, but most said they wanted to help and protect the Earth for moral and religious reasons.
“I think the Earth takes care of us and it is our honor, duty and responsibility to take care of the earth as well,” McGuire said. “I think this issue is so pressing right now that we need to show the world what we believe in. Which right now is advocacy for our world.”
The obligation for stewardship was an idea shared by McGuire’s friend and junior Jackie Rojas. She held a sign reading, “Sciopero per il clima,” which means “climate strike or strike for the climate” in Italian.
“I came out here to strike for climate change because, we think that taking care the earth is extremely important,” Rojas said. “Just like we take care of each other as humans and we are creation, we are indebted to and in charge of taking care of the rest of the world that is also our brothers and sisters. Our brother sun, and all of the trees and everything that is living and connecting us to the world.”
The President of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Sister M. Veronique, identified the issue as a pro-life issue, and said it was one of the most pressing issues of the time.
“In the Catholic Church, we have right to life in many places here at Saint Mary’s College, we have our own right to life,” she said. “This is the right to life issue. So now is the time to rediscover our vocation as children of God as brothers and sisters and stewards of creation. And so again, our vocation, not just our lifestyle, vocation, but our vocation as human persons is to care for our creation.”
Associate professor of biology and environmental studies Cassie Majetic spoke on the current environmental and human consequences of climate change, including fires in Alaska, the Amazon and California, rising water temperatures and droughts in Australia and South Africa. She noted the timeliness of the issue.
“This crisis is real. It is happening now. It is things that are going on around us, at this point and time,” Majetic said.
Sisters also shared their experiences with climate change.The personal account of Sister Madalyn Murrary of the Thomas fire, which broke out on Dec. 4, 2017 about 25 miles from the sisters home was read aloud.
“By 1:30 a.m., the sisters at St. Catherine were evacuating their home along with hundreds of others as the wind driven fires spread quickly over hills that were dried out by years of drought,” Murray said. “As they left St. Catherine’s, they could see houses burning up on the hill behind them. The sisters were fortunate that they were able to return to their home the next day. Not so fortunate were the 400-some families who lost their homes that night.”
Sister Mary Ellen Louise Fuller spoke on her experience with the 2018 flood in South Bend.
“We had water emerging from the concrete cement floor, fountains would just start to flow. So I mean, it would I guess it would be nice if it was outside. But in your house?” Fuller said. “[When] Mayor Pete [Buttigieg] started out, he had to deal with two catastrophic events: an 1,000 year flood, which was preceded, I think, maybe six months preceding this, and this was called a 500 year event. But no longer can this be taken for granted that it will be 500 years. I mean, climate change is here, and something must be done.”