SEATTLE – “Who will bring this message of hope to the world?” Father Jack Walmesley asked the estimated 250 people who gathered June 18 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish to celebrate Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change.
“Send us, Lord, your servants are listening,” the crowd responded as part of a missioning ceremony at the close of the event that honored the pope’s message of environmental stewardship with song, prayer and speeches.
Father Walmesley, pastor of the Seattle parish, said earlier that he is excited by Pope Francis’ moral leadership on the environment. “It’s a call to action, and not just for Catholics,” Father Walmesley said. “It’s a call to humanity.”
The 184-page encyclical, “Laudato Si’” (“Praise Be to You”), highlights the crisis that climate change poses for humanity, promotes stewardship of the Earth, calls attention to the plight of the world’s poor in the face of environmental degradation, and invites all humanity to come together to solve a problem global in scope.
“Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years,” Pope Francis stated in the encyclical, released June 18.
The event at Our Lady of Guadalupe featured speeches Father Walmesley as well as Jessie Dye, Earth Ministry’s program and outreach director; Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos, director of Seattle University’s Institute of Catholic Thought and Culture; and Dan and Robyn Campbell, members of Our Lady of Guadalupe who helped start an environmental group at their parish.
Father Walmesley said the gathering was an outgrowth of the parish’s environmental efforts, which has resulted in green-building choices and installing solar panels on parish buildings. Attendees were able to view the parish’s eco-friendly buildings at an open house as part of the event.
Earth Ministry, which focuses on engaging the religious community in environmental stewardship and advocacy, suggested partnering with the parish for the celebration, Dye said. “When we heard of the pope’s encyclical, Our Lady of Guadalupe stepped up and said, ‘We want to celebrate this,’” she said. The parish has been “one of our best partners for some time,” Dye added.
Parishioner Dan Campbell called the release of the pope’s encyclical “incredibly empowering.”
“It’s exciting for me as a Catholic that he’s taking this stance that’s not particularly popular,” Campbell said. “He’s a major voice of a major religion discussing climate change and what humans can do to protect God’s creation.”