September 23, 2019, Kalookan City, Philippines – “We still have 11 years to recover our Mother Earth.”
That was the message and the sense of urgency that Adrian Dominican Sister Maria May Cano, OP, gained from her participation in the National Convention on Laudato Si’ and Climate Change, held September 3-5, 2019, at Layforce, San Carlos Seminary, Guadalupe, Makati, in the Philippines.
Sister May was one of 140 participants who learned more about the environmental crisis from the convention’s study of Laudato Si’ (Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment) and An Urgent Call for Ecological Conversion, Hope in the Face of Climate Emergency, a pastoral letter by the Bishops of the Philippines.
Both documents – as well as a Unity Statement issued by participants of the National Convention – outline practices and attitudes that can turn the world around from ecological disaster:
In their July 2019 pastoral letter, the Bishops committed themselves to live the spirit and principles of Laudato Si’ through 13 action points to restore the health of the environment.
In an interview, Sister May outlined the various ways that she and the other Sisters in the Adrian Dominican Congregation’s Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter have learned to live with the health of the environment in mind – and have taught students, co-workers, parishioners, and family members to do so as well. “We involve ourselves and immerse ourselves in ecological issues,” Sister May said.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters have long advocated for environmentally friendly practices – and against any abuses of Earth or of natural resources. For years, Sisters in the Our Lady of Remedies Chapter have stood with the indigenous peoples in the Philippines against foreign multinational corporations that have sought to seize their land and plunder it for its natural resources. Along with other religious participating in the recent convention, they advocate against large-scale and open-pit mining, large dams, and other practices that threaten the environment.
Sister May has already begun the process of teaching the documents’ recommended sound environmental practices closer to home – at the Diocese of Kalookan Caloocan, where she ministers.
“I proposed the ecological policy to the different departments that we need to reduce our use of plastic,” she said. Her instructions have been as simple as suggesting that plastic banners for diocesan celebrations be switched to cloth banners and that people who attend meetings bring their own meal kits – plates, silverware, and glasses. Understanding the need to set a good example, Sister May said the Sisters have also started using stainless steel straws to cut down on the one-use plastic straws.
One initiative promoted by the convention is to reduce by half the current carbon emission in the Philippines and to work for the ecological conversion of families toward a carbon-free Philippines. Sister May has been very aware of the need to reduce the use of fossil fuels such as carbon. “When we arrive in the office we switch on the air conditioning,” rather than leaving it on overnight, she said. “I ask my co-workers to turn it on in the morning – a little sacrifice not to turn the air conditioning on early, so the carbon use is reduced.”
The bishops in the Philippines have also recommended the use of healthy, clean energy rather than energy produced by fossil fuels. “Making energy through solar power is expensive, but in a few years we will save a lot of money,” Sister May said.
The Sisters in the Remedies Chapter have also been teaching children, teachers, and parents in their schools how to live in a way that respects the environment. “The Dominican Schools of Angeles City and Apalit will not use bottled water,” Sister May said. “We have a water station so the schools ask the children to bring their own water tumblers.”
The Sisters also encourage people to adopt practices that bring them closer to Earth: planting trees, planting gardens, eating of the produce of their gardens, avoiding junk food, and adopting a balanced diet. The Sisters use compost on their gardens to enrich the soil and save seedlings from plants so that they can grow more the next year. “In our own little way we should set an example,” Sister May said.
Feature photo: Sister Maria May Cano, OP; Planting trees is one of the many ways that the Sisters and communities in the Philippines address the threat of climate change.