Catholic sisters have a unique opportunity and responsibility to lead efforts to curb climate change and environmental degradation as individuals, communities and a network of congregations worldwide, Franciscan Sr. Sheila Kinsey told 850 superiors general of women religious congregations gathered May 7 in Rome during the second day of the International Union of Superiors Generals’ (USIG) plenary assembly. The gathered leaders were from 80 countries representing 450,00 women religious around the world.
Kinsey outlined steps taken since June 2018 when UISG launched the campaign Sowing Hope for the Planet to share environmental practices many communities have adopted for decades and efforts of women religious who are putting Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ into practice.
Sisters live and minister both in countries where lifestyle contributes to the rise in temperatures and in regions where climate change has the strongest effects. “Our communities are both intimate with the cause and effect,” Sr. Kinsey said. “With our personal commitment to one another, we are ideally positioned to respond compassionately in an integrated effort.”
Abuse and challenges
In light of the ongoing abuse scandal within the Church, the executive board of UISG issued a statement condemning any abuse of power and the “necessity to form the members of our congregations so that relationships at every level are healthy, respectful and mutual,” said Sr. Carmen Sammut, the outgoing UISG president.
Sr. Teresa Maya, former president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and a Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word spoke of the current challenges in the Church. “Among all the different crises we are called to live and hope in, the one that must be named…is the crisis in our church. History will judge how we responded to this crisis. One day, women religious will be either accomplices or prophets or victims. We simply cannot sit this one out on the sidelines, even when we are being sidelined.” She explored how women religious can be “women of vision, seers of hope.”
She said that when she heard Sr. Veronica Openibo, leader of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, address the [recent] Vatican summit on abuse, she was filled with hope.
“We all stood with her as she witnessed for women the world over,” she said. She continued, “Our feminist legacy has a word of integrity to offer. Religious sisters should all be feminists, Christian feminists, who are committed to struggle and resist to ensure that women and men and children are all treated as human beings.” ~ Joyce Meyer and Gail DeGeorge, Global Sisters Report