Growing in Faith and Fellowship for Environmental Justice

I found out about GreenFaith through the Franciscan Action Network. Thank you, FAN!

At this time in my life I felt the Spirit calling me to “perceive with eyes that see” (cf. Deut 29:3, Jn 12:40) and take steps to live more passionately this call for justice for all humans, non-humans and the cosmos. This call attracted me to the 18-month GreenFaith Fellowship Program, which combines education, training and skill development for social and ecological justice. I joined 24 lay and ordained leaders from diverse religious traditions (Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Evangelical, Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant and Unitarian Universalist) who want to live environmental leadership and want to speak more emphatically about environmental concerns, such as the condition of our global eco-systems, climate change, and environmental toxins that are affecting human populations, the earth and so much more. I wish, like many, to use my skills to work with people for sustainable communities.

My ministry is one of education and professional facilitation with Jericho House, a youth and adult leadership, ecological and social justice, and spirituality centre in the Niagara region of southern Ontario. I am a Co-Director of Jericho House with Br. Bill Carrothers, a member of the Congregation of Christian Brothers. Jericho House is an ecumenical and inter-faith retreat centre. It is situated on 17 acres of Carolinian forest and abuts our partner, the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, which oversees 450 acres. We facilitate leadership conferences, confirmation retreats, faith and spirituality courses for teachers, eco-spirituality retreats, etc. The GreenFaith Fellowship Program models similar goals and principles which Jericho House advocates in the development of collaborative and respectful relationships across boundaries of race, colour, creed and class in an effort to maximize relational power for positive change.

Within the 2012 GreenFaith Fellowship Program there are three residential retreats, monthly webinars and extensive reading and education in eco-theology, environmental advocacy, and environmental justice. Each of the Fellows writes an eco-autobiography and theological statement and develops and completes a religious-environmental leadership plan that engages communities in the geographic region and/or place of worship in networking and mobilizing religious leaders and peoples towards transformation for justice for the earth and the cosmos.

The first residential retreat was on November 7-10, 2011. The Fellows of 2012 gathered at the Archdiocesan Youth Centre in Kearny, New Jersey, for an environmental justice retreat. Through prayer, ritual, networking, an EJ (environmental justice) Tour, discussions and reflections, all walked away more aware of the social determinants of health, the cumulative impacts of environmental degradation, the Community Protection ordinance in Essex County, and how to be part of decision-making for land use change, green jobs, energy sustainability and hope.

Dr. Ana Baptista of Ironbound Community Corporation spoke during the EJ Tour of the hope of this group of men and women who will not give up their power to multinational interests amid injustices and hazards to the land and people in Essex County. These threats include:

  • incinerators and active industrial wastes
  • two miles of proposed hydro wires
  • smoke stacks
  • 500 trucks passing by a school or daycare area in one hour
  • planes landing and taking off every three minutes
  • coal-fired power plants

Those from poor, immigrant, or refugee background are 40 percent more likely to live in one or more of these compromised environments. One statistic we heard was that while 700 people died in Essex County in one year due to gunshot wounds, 7000 people died in that same year due to the health impacts of pollution.

Together the members of the Ironbound Community Corporation are making a difference. Some of the people in the community are being trained to stand in the public forum to right the wrongs of poor decision-making.

So that we would not lose hope, in Essex County or at home, we saw a light amid the darkness: we toured the Greater Newark Conservancy, which promotes structural change for environmental stewardship to improve the quality of life in New Jersey’s urban communities through environmental education, community gardening, beautification of neighbourhoods, job training opportunities and environmental justice advocacy.

I continue the journey with GreenFaith. May we all continue in the power of imagination for effecting positive planetary transformation. God’s Blessings!

Sincerely,
Sr. Jacquie Keefe, CSSF

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Published in: on January 16, 2012 at 7:45 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank you for the thumbnail sketch of a very needed, energy instilling and hope giving program that will send tendrils of action-ideas to us who will interact with you and others in the program…and we know FAN will keep us posted on how we can partner with you in faith-greening ourselves and our earth!

  2. I am grateful for your commitment to Green Faith. May we all benefit from your experience.


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