By Kathy Brown, Regional Coordinator, Caritas North America
In December, the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change trained their first “Catholic Climate Ambassadors”. They are leaders from around the country who will reach out, educate and empower people in their local dioceses, parishes, schools, and religious communities to be engaged in this critical issue. They will provide a uniquely Catholic perspective and pay particular attention to the impacts of climate change on people in poverty in the U.S. and around the world.
The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change was launched in 2006 to help the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic community address issues related to climate change. The Coalition is comprised of over ten national Catholic organisations in the United States, including the bishops’ conference, Caritas members Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA, and men and women religious leadership conferences.
In order to expand the reach of the Coalition and its members, an ambitious programme of training 25 Catholic leaders from around the country to engage Catholics at the local, state and regional levels was launched in the summer. Over fifty applicants applied. Twelve were trained in December. A second training is scheduled in March 2011.
The ambassadors will give talks on climate change in their local Catholic communities and help to grow a network of people willing to be engaged in advocacy, education and prayer. In addition the ambassadors will promote the Catholic Climate Covenant and St. Francis Pledge as a key tool enabling Catholics to live out their call to be stewards of God’s creation.
The weekend training enabled the trainees to gain a familiarity with Catholic teaching on the environment and climate justice. Science and theology were brought together while weaving in illustrative stories of communities impacted by the changes in climate from around the world. At the end of the two days, the trainees were asked to develop an outline for their own presentation on climate change which the group evaluated and provided suggestions.
The ambassadors come from a variety of backgrounds, including a university professor, women from religious communities, a retired chemist, a union organiser, a cardiologist, a non-profit leader, a hospital chaplain, and an adult and youth religious educator. They are from all over the United States. Each is seen as a leader in their local community and have ready access for speaking venues. The Coalition will provide marketing, educational, and resource support as they go forward. Webinars are planned to further educate the ambassadors in such areas as Catholic social and moral teaching and advocacy.
In the absence of comprehensive climate change legislation this year and to provide Catholics with a voice from their own community on climate change, the Ambassador programme is an opportunity to advance understanding and awareness.
Please visit www.catholicsandclimatechange.org