Category Archives: Action

Priest in Costa Rica bakes bread to help families in need

Bread
Father Geison Gerardo Ortiz Marín baking bread. Photo courtesy of Father Ortiz.

– When he was just 15 years old, Fr. Geison Gerardo Ortiz Marín had to quit school and find a job to help support his family.

Faced with a difficult economy, Ortiz’s family was struggling financially. He quit school and found a job opportunity at a neighboring family’s bakery, where he worked for five years.

The priest told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, that he learned important life skills from the job, such as “knowing what it is to meet a schedule, getting up at dawn and working overtime. In short, it was an enriching experience.”

He took those life skills with him when he entered seminary at age 21. He has now been a priest for 10 years and serves as pastor of Saint Rose of Lima parish in Ciudad Queseda in northern Costa Rica.

Recently, however, Ortiz has returned to his roots as a baker to raise funds for the needy in his parish during the coronavirus pandemic.

Public Masses were suspended a month ago in Costa Rica due to the pandemic. As the lockdown continued, the priest could see the financial strain mounting on members of the community.

“A lot of people starting knocking on the rectory door asking for help, while the parish and local charitable groups weren’t getting any income from the collection,” he explained.

So Ortiz began baking. He uses around 55 lbs. of flour each workday to bake different kinds of bread, rolls and other items. A bag of baked goods sells for 1500 colones, or about $2.65.

“With 1500 colones here we can buy perhaps a 5-pound package of rice,” he said, adding that he has been able to help about 60 families so far.

From the sale of baked goods, he was able to raise extra funds, he said, which have ensured that anyone who has knocked on the rectory door has left with a package of rice, sugar or beans.

No one has been sent away empty handed, the priest said.

“I work all day long baking bread, selling it, and in the evenings I celebrate the Eucharist. I always tell the Lord, ‘Thank you for the true bread that gives eternal life, which is the greatest of riches and is what I want our people to have, receive, taste and feel’,” he said.

Ortiz encouraged other priests to find creative ways to help serve those in need during the challenging times presented by the pandemic.

“I believe that this is a special moment,” he said. “God has allowed me to return to my origins. God has allowed me to help meet the needs of our brothers. This is a moment in which the Lord is allowing us to live in solidarity and to reach out in a very special way.”

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/priest-in-costa-rica-bakes-bread-to-help-families-in-need-17858

EarthBeat Weekly: Throwaway plastics strike back amid the pandemic

Plastive
An elderly woman wears a protective face mask as she walks with shopping bags during the COVID-19 pandemic in Barcelona, Spain, April 1, 2020. (CNS photo/Nacho Doce, Reuters)

Earlier this week, my wife Clare and I decided to try something we hadn’t done before: ride bikes to grab our groceries.

The weather was great and springy, and near our home in Kansas City (the one in Missouri, by the way) there’s a trail that passes by several grocery stores — meaning we wouldn’t have to bother with passing cars in a city that’s still learning to share the road.

So we had our route. The sky was clear. There was just one more thing to do before we were on our way: Gather our reusable bags.

One of the side effects of the coronavirus pandemic has been a restoking of the pushback on reusable goods. Some stores have barred reusable bags, concerned they could spread the virus, and coffeeshops have paused refilling reusable cups. Food pantries are placing meals in disposable bags in their efforts to feed millions in need. Restaurants struggling to stay in business have turned to disposable packaging — and often plastic foam — in their shift to carryout and delivery meals. And as they plan to reopen, some are opting for disposable menus.

In late March, The New York Times reported on how the plastic bag industry is seeking to capitalize on the pandemic to undo state and city bans on single-use plastics like bags and straws. The story has stuck with me. It was a reminder of the forces at play seeking to preserve the throwaway culture that Pope Francis has urged the world to abandon.

Economics of course are a major factor, with plastic production backed by major oil and chemical associations. But I find it harder to understand the freedom angle: Is there really such a passion to fight for the right to be able to throw something away often minutes after receiving it? I was recently reminded there was by a conservative friend, who in listing reasons why he wouldn’t want to live in Seattle stated he liked his plastic straws.

How did something like single-use plastics become so ingrained in U.S. culture when it hasn’t been around that long? It turns out others have wondered the same thing. While variations of straws have been around since 3,000 B.C., the plastic version wasn’t introduced until the 1950s and by the ’70s had overtaken the slurping market. National Geographic offered a video chronology of plastic’s history as part of its Planet or Plastic project.

Today, approximately 8.8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, and upwards of 26 million tons of plastic enter landfills in the U.S. alone. As plastics pollute land and water, they threaten both biodiversity and human health, with more and more microscopic plastic particles entering into the food chain.

The disposable vs. reusable debate existed well before the novel coronavirus began spreading around the globe. How it plays out post-pandemic will likely have a significant effect on whether the planet leaves the throwaway culture in its past, as well.

And whether pedaling to grocery stores with reusable bags in tow becomes an even more prevalent practice.

 

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/earthbeat-weekly-throwaway-plastics-strike-back-amid-pandemic

Kenya faces new health risk as floods, mudslide displace thousands

NAIROBI, KENYA — Catholic leaders in Kenya are appealing for humanitarian support in regions where landslides and floods have displaced thousands, as the country battles increasing cases of the coronavirus.

Church sources said the disasters had left a trail of death and destruction in the Rift Valley and Western Kenya regions, while introducing a new twist in the COVID-19 fight.

At least 4,000 have been displaced in the West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet counties in the Rift Valley in mudslides that have also killed 12 people. In Nyando, part of Kisumu County, an estimated 1,600 people are trapped in villages by floods, according to the sources.

“The parish center, a convent and nearby school are now submerged in water following days of heavy rainfall. The parish priest and nuns had to be evacuated, but the people are still trapped in their homes. They are crying for help. With a canoe, we can evacuate them to safer zones,” Fr. Joachim Omollo, an Apostle of Jesus priest in Kisumu Archdiocese, told Catholic News Service.

“I think all the attention is on COVID-19, but these people need emergency aid. If we don’t act quickly, waterborne disease will soon strike, adding to the burden when the health systems are on the alert over COVID-19,” he said.

The mudslides swept away a main market, a school, a police post and villages. With their homes and houses destroyed, the displaced families have camped in schools and other places on safer grounds.

The government, the Red Cross and churches — including the Catholic Church — have moved to provide some relief, including some food and clothes. County governments are promising to help the displaced people fight COVID-19 by providing water, soap and encouraging social distancing.

Before the landslide, the communities had been observing church and government COVID-19 guidelines, but concerns have emerged that these measures may be difficult to keep, leaving the people exposed to the disease in the new camps.

“We have been discouraging the people from congregating in one place due to the current situation in the country (COVID-19). Many of them have since moved in with relatives,” said Bishop Dominic Kimengich of Eldoret. “We are also there, providing relief to the displaced persons.”

The East African nation’s Catholic bishops and clergy have been urging the people to observe the government’s guidelines. By April 23, Kenya confirmed 320 cases of COVID-19, but the numbers were increasing daily.

 

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/kenya-faces-new-health-risk-floods-mudslide-displace-thousands

Our common home needs you on the frontline today

Earth
Students and activists hold placards with messages as they participate in a Global Climate Strike rally in New Delhi Sept. 20, 2019. (CNS/Reuters/Anushree Fadnavis)

COVID-19 has put the brakes on life as we know it. Travel and regular strolls (outside and in the supermarket) are the first to leave everyone’s itineraries. Uncertainty and foregoing daily activities has caused a lot of sleepless nights as we helplessly and radically change our lifestyles to stop the pandemic.

That is not to say that quarantines have made our lives completely miserable. After all, adapting is common nature to humans. Generally speaking, families are having meals together again, those who can work from home are now a little more tech-savvy, and people are more in touch with a slower pace of life.

But would this be the same story for those less fortunate?

Those from low socio-economic backgrounds and the elderly are hit twice as hard. After all, the pandemic is more than a public health issue – it’s a social justice issue, too.

Quarantines are only bearable if one has a stable job that can be done from the comfort of home, if one has emergency savings for basic necessities, if one has a job they can continue or return to.

When community quarantine was imposed in the Philippines, hundreds of thousands of people living below the poverty line had no other choice but to fight for rationed food. Some risked being infected or arrested because staying at home would mean their family not eating for weeks. For those less fortunate, the question in their head is: “How will I exist?”

In many ways COVID-19 is just like another existential threat – climate change. Both global issues create unprecedented adverse impacts to public health and society. Both issues have the ability to crumple global economies. Neither issue discriminates in selecting victims. But its short and long-term impacts definitely discriminate based on social class. And most importantly, both issues are at the mercy of human intervention aimed at reducing the spread of infection and emissions.

To protect the vulnerable from COVID-19 and climate change, we have to change the way we work and live. Fortunately, putting others before ourselves is paramount in Catholic teaching.

In 2015, Pope Francis penned “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” which challenged every Christian to experience an ecological conversion. He challenged us to “hear the cries of the earth and the cries of the poor” — an intentional prioritization to ease the suffering of the most vulnerable in society.

All of us are suffering but some are suffering more because they started with less to begin with. Most of us privileged enough to work from home must listen to the cries of the poor in the face of the virus and climate change. To secure an intergenerational solution to the two existential threats we currently face, Pope Francis’ challenge rings true: “We require a new and universal solidarity.… All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.”

Perhaps this quarantine is a restart to a changed lifestyle that turns its back on  the “throwaway culture” that is built on reckless accumulation.

Perhaps this quarantine is the opportune renewal of a global ‘new normal’ in the way we treat our neighbours and our common home. After all, the science is clear: we have until 2030 to halve our emissions if we were to keep global warming well below 1.5 degrees.

So, what will your ecological conversion look like? What part of your “lockdown lifestyle” must remain post-lockdown in order to help us continue to reduce our emissions? Can you do with less flying? Would growing your own food be a suitable alternative? Could giving to charities targeted at sustaining the poor, children, and the elderly be part of your budget so that we can all recover from this unprecedented downturn together and with dignity?

With climate action as the central theme of Earth Day’s 50th anniversary on April 22, let’s all join digital campaigns on social media. If you are in the Philippines, let others into your bubble by posting a photo of your household’s road to zero waste. In New Zealand, Zoom workshops and seminars on creating our “new normal” are plenty. Climate action groups such as Generation Zero are also posting submission guidelines on infrastructure projects that align with a low emissions future. Despite the community quarantine, let’s not forget that everyday is Earth Day.

Turning a blind eye or drowning out the cries of the poor and our common home is not an option anymore. Just as the present crisis demands foresight and prompt action, climate change demands that we respond now to avert future catastrophe.

Pope Francis, scientists, doctors, essential workers, and our common home need all of us to be at the frontline.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/our-common-home-needs-you-frontline-today

Kiev monastery fights coronavirus with homemade hand sanitizer

Screenshot_2020-03-25 Kiev monastery fights coronavirus with homemade hand sanitizer
A clergyman of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine packs bottles of hand sanitizer at the Vydubychi Monastery in Kiev, Ukraine March 21, 2020. Priests and students of the theological seminary produce hand sanitizer and donate it to the elderly and people in need to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

KIEV, – The black-robed Orthodox clerics sit in a line under an icon in one of Ukraine’s oldest monasteries, mixing up batches of hand sanitizer to distribute to the poor and the needy.

Wearing purple disposable gloves, the clergy and students in the 11th-century Vydubychi complex concentrate as they follow the recipe set out by World Health Organization and use sterilised gear to fill row after row of plastic bottles.

The monastery in Kiev started the operation after hearing people were struggling to get enough sanitizer to protect themselves against the coronavirus, Roman Holodov, head of the social assistance department at the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, said.

“People are in a panic, especially poor people who have no access to sanitizers,” he told Reuters.

Hundreds of bottles filled with clear liquid are boxed up in a room that used to be a Sunday school.

They are then sent to destinations scrawled on a whiteboard – cities from Odessa in the south to Mariupol in the east, close to the frontline of Ukraine’s simmering conflict with Russian-backed separatists.

Churches across the denominations have started adapting to the coronavirus which at the last count has infected 73 people in the country and killed three.

The Orthodox Church of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church broadcast Sunday services online to comply with restrictions on gatherings. Priests have asked the faithful to stop kissing crosses or relics.

Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the Major Archbishop of the Greek Catholic Church, delivered his sermon in the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ of Sunday. The chairs were mostly empty, but more than 20,000 people watched on YouTube.

The spoon he used to administer communion to the few worshippers who were present was disinfected after each use.

“At our request, at our call, people stayed at home. And in my opinion, it shows their Christian and civic sense of responsibility,” he told Reuters after the service.

 

Church’s social justice teachings inspire young climate activist

climate strike
Isabella Johnson demanded the city of Chicago declare a “climate emergency” at the Oct. 7, 2019, Youth Climate Strike. Johnson, 17, leads the organization that planned the event. Her pin reads “There is no planet B.” (Zack Fishman)

Climate activist Isabella Johnson is planning a massive Earth Day protest that requires permits and other paperwork with the city of Chicago. But she is finding it challenging to get to the city’s offices before they close at 4:30 p.m.

That’s because she is still in high school.

As the leader of the Illinois chapter of the Youth Climate Strike organization, 17-year-old Johnson has helped organize four Chicago protests that are part of an international movement that encourages students to skip school to advocate for action on global warming and environmental justice.

Johnson, a senior at Benet Academy, a Catholic prep school about 35 miles west of
downtown Chicago, oversees 20 volunteer staff and regularly takes a train downtown to meet with adults from partner organizations. She squeezes in responses to media during homeroom and lunch.

“I try to fit in my homework somewhere in there, too,” she said.

Now Johnson is working on what she hopes is her biggest youth protest yet, the April 22 event that could attract some 15,000 or more Chicago-area youth.

“I’m really passionate about all these things,” she told NCR’s Earthbeat. “I saw something that needed fixing in the world, so I decided to spend my time fixing it.”

Johnson is quick to share facts about the seriousness of the crisis, citing the estimate that the world has about 12 years to avoid disastrous consequences from global warming.

“I think climate change is one of the most important issues of today, just because it is so time sensitive,” she said. “We’re damaging the earth. It’s our home; it’s our earth; it’s God’s creation.”

But being in the spotlight has not always been easy for Johnson, who grew up in nearby Naperville. She has faced online bullying and struggles with her own mental health.

What keeps her grounded — and motivates her activist work — is her faith.

Youth stepping up

Last fall, while in Colorado checking out prospective colleges, Johnson had the chance to meet Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg while backstage at that state’s climate strike.

Johnson thanked Thunberg and apologized for President Trump, who had publicly mocked the activist during her visit to the U.S. Thunberg, in turn, thanked her and the other Colorado activists.

The whole experience was “mind-blowing,” Johnson said. “Without her, I would not be doing what I’m doing.”

Johnson also owes her activism career to her older sister, Olivia, who in 2018 took her to her first protest after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. For the first time, “I felt like I could create change, too,” she recalled.

Johnson began to educate herself about the issue of gun violence and about politics. That’s when she decided to trade her involvement with track and cross country for political activism, especially around environmental issues.

“Because the adults and the politicians aren’t doing enough about this, it’s been left to the youth,” said Johnson. “Most youth activists say they don’t want to do this, but we’ve been forced to.”

As a state leader, she created an ambassador program that allows students outside the core team to get involved at a lesser level. Illinois now has more than 100 ambassadors, and the program has been replicated by other state chapters.

 

 

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/churchs-social-justice-teachings-inspire-young-climate-activist

University of Notre Dame converts tons of dining hall leftovers into energy

earth
University of Notre Dame senior Matthew Magiera stands in front of one of the school’s 5,000-gallon holding tanks of ground-up food. (William E. Odell)

Notre Dame, Indiana — On the campus of the University Notre Dame with its “Fighting Irish” mascot, green is undeniably the school color during football season. But in recent years, the 177-year-old university with about 12,000 students has been going green in other ways — reducing its carbon footprint and working towards sustainability.

In 2016, the university adopted a comprehensive sustainability strategy that featured six major areas the university intended to work on. One of them was a commitment to reduce waste, including food waste. At Notre Dame, food waste comes primarily from its two main dining halls and from campus catering events. Food waste was painfully visible on home football game weekends. Thousands of fans came to campus to cheer, eat, drink — and discard what they didn’t consume.

“One of the first things I realized when I started working at the university was that we were generating an awful lot of waste on campus, and most of it was food,” recalled Allison Mihalich, senior program director at Notre Dame’s Office of Sustainability.

Until two years ago, Mihalich worked for the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. She’s found campus culture very different than the EPA environment. Not everyone on campus is well informed about or even interested in environmental issues. But she saw that Notre Dame administrators had a growing commitment to sustainability and wanted to both recycle and rescue food.

Mihalich said she first encountered Matthew Magiera, a chemical engineering major from Pittsford, New York, in the university’s sustainability office conference room. His research notes and calculations were spread out across the table and floor. Collaborating with Campus Dining and the Office of Sustainability, Magiera had been tasked as an intern with calculating the amount of food waste from dining hall food trays and from catering.

It was quite a challenge for a sophomore college student, even an exceptionally committed and capable one. For months, “waste weighs” of food were painstakingly recorded, analyzed and re-analyzed.

“We realized that we were generating a ton of food waste a day,” Mihalich told NCR’s EarthBeat. “Literally an actual ton of food waste every day from the two dining halls and the catering facilities!”

Two years later, Magiera shies away from taking much credit for his critical food waste research. Nonetheless, the research soon led to Notre Dame’s installation of three Grind2Energy systems, one near each of the two dining halls and one by the catering office.

Last year, Notre Dame began utilizing the Grind2Energy systems in order to process its food waste and then send it to another site for anaerobic digestion, the biological break-down of organic material that produces biogas that can be used to generate electric power.

 

 

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/university-notre-dame-converts-tons-dining-hall-leftovers-energy