Catholic Schools Week celebration in Portadown

Catholic Schools Week was celebrated throughout all of our schools last week. On Tuesday January 31st over 600 Students and teachers came to St John the Baptist Church in Portadown for the first of two Diocesan Celebrations. Led by Archbishop Eamon the theme this year was Catholic Schools , working with Pope Francis in caring for our common home.  This was a practical call to everyone to live the spirit behind the holy Fathers letter Laudato Si. See attached photographs. Many schools actively participated in the liturgy and music was provided by the St John the Baptist. College  Community Choir. Archbishop Eamon spoke of the warm appreciation of Pope Francis when he learned of the theme of our celebrations this year. In particular he loved the idea behind Schools becoming eco or green Schools displaying their special eco green flags and actively seeking to live out the principles of active care for our world and its dwindling resources. The service ended by all holding a small cross and pledging to be carers for our planet practicing justice for all of creation and seeking to redress some of the harm already caused to our plant and all its beautiful creatures and resources.

A second diocesan celebration was held in Dundalk by Seine at the Holy Redeemer Church on Thursday February 2nd. About 1000 students attended this event which as based on a songs of praise model. This too was greatly appreciated by all. Two key talks were given by Archbishop Eamon and councillor Mr Mark Deary. Students fully enjoyed the eco justice message and sang their hearts out. Clapping and doing the movements to some of the hymns and songs proved as popular as ever. This year saw some fab drumming that helped add to the active participation by all.

Pope Francis – Reflecting on why I wrote my letter ‘Laudato Si – Care of our Common Home’

Narrator: Pope Francis was recently asked by a child why he wrote a letter to the whole world about caring for the earth.  He told the child that as well as being the leader of the Catholic Church, he was also a scientist.  He said that he had talked to a lot of other scientists and experts in climate change and they were all very worried about the state of the earth and what human beings were doing to cause climate change.  This, he said, had helped him to understand that serious action needed to be taken before it was too late. He told the child that before sitting down to write his letter, he had thought about all the people in the world and especially the poor living in the worst affected countries.  Later that night as he slept, he dreamt about this and in his dream he could hear the voices of young children calling out to him.  This is what they said:

Jovita: Holy Father Francis, my name is Jovita.  I am ten years old.  I am from the Philippines in Southern Asia.  I was at home with my family when a huge storm came. We had been warned that a bad storm was on its way, but we decided to stay and hoped that it would pass.  The winds were very loud.  We were very scared.  Then the waves came.  In a second our house was gone. I only survived because my grandad held on to me as we all clung to the roof of a neighbour’s house.  After two hours the winds died down and the water drained away.  Our house was completely gone.  Most of our village was gone.  All we owned was gone.  But, amazingly, we survived with only scrapes and bruises.  We are now living in a huge camp with thousands of other people from all around the Philippines who have lost their homes just like us.  We hope that one day we can all return to our village and rebuild our home.  However, we worry in case more storms like this will come again.  Please pray for us. 

Josef: Papa Francis, my name is Josef.  I am six years old.  We live in a small village in Kenya in Africa.  I live on a farm with my grandmother and my two brothers.  Sadly, Mama died in 2012.  The place that we live in is very dry.  We have had no real rain for over two years.  We do not have enough water to drink or to help our crops to grow.  We live over 30 miles from the nearest river.  Sometimes all we have to eat is flour mixed with a tiny bit of milk.  Our goats died in the summer because we did not have enough water to give them a drink. I use a damp cloth to keep clean. I have never had a bath. My grandmother says that we are probably going to have to move to one of the cities soon as the rains won’t come and our crops will fail again.  If this happens, we will have nothing to sell or eat.  Please ask the world to help us.

Maria: Papa Francesco, my name is Maria.  This year I am 15.  I live with my family in the biggest city in Honduras in the Americas.  We have a lot of very hot weather, but also some terrible tropical storms.  One of the worst storms we have had was in 1998 when Hurricane Mitch killed over 10,000 people.  I wasn’t born when this happened, but I can still see the damage that the storm left behind.  My mother often has nightmares about the hillside sliding and all the people and houses being swept away in a huge mudslide.  In school we have learned that cutting down the trees meant that there was nothing left to protect us and to keep the hillside in place.  Houses, animals, crops and people were all simply washed away.  When I was just four years old, we had to leave our home for a full year as we were hit by two different storms.  We never seem to have a chance to recover.  These storms just keep coming.  This summer we were forced to flee again because of another hurricane called Earl.  I am frightened that eventually a storm so powerful will come, that it will destroy everyone and everything in my country.  Please help us to protect our land and homes.

Anna: Holy Father Francis, I am Anna and I am 14 years old.  For the past three years I have lived on a Research station on King George Island, 75 miles from Antarctica with my scientist parents Jonathan and Rachel.  It is beautiful here, but also very, very cold – minus 45 degrees at the minute, but it can go as low as minus 80.  There are no trees or plants, just loads and loads of snow.  My mom says that although it is very cold here, the ozone layer directly above us has a huge hole in it and temperatures have actually risen by nearly 3 degrees. Dad is worried that this is causing a thinning of the great ice sheets. Already, one of these has completely collapsed into the sea. If they continue to melt, then the sea levels will rise everywhere. Dad says that people across the world who live by the coast will face flooding or maybe even completely lose their homes and land. I am also worried about the penguins who live here. They are really cute. Dad has told me the numbers of penguins has dropped by 50% in the last forty years.  If it gets any warmer, the penguins will wiped out. Please Holy Father, tell the world about this and help us to stop this from happening.

Boukou: Holy Father Francis, my name is Boukou and I am 10 years old.  I live in a rainforest in Cameroon, with my mother, father, two brothers, a little sister and two grandparents.  We are Baka tribe people.  Our ancestors were among the first people to live here.  The forest is a beautiful and amazing place. We would love you to come and see it.  We depend on the forest to provide us with food and shelter.  We move around from place to place in search of food.  However, our beautiful forests are under threat and our people are being forced to leave.  Big companies are cutting down the trees and destroying our land.  So much of our forest has already been cut down and if this is allowed to continue, more than half of the rainforests in the world will be gone forever in another few years.  When our forests are gone there will be fewer clouds and less rain which will lead to droughts and crop failures all over the world. The rainforests are home to more species of plants and animals than anywhere in the world and they are losing their homes because the trees are being cut down.  This will lead to many of God’s beautiful creatures and plants being lost forever.  Please help us.

Oliver: Holy Father Francis, my name is Ollie and I am 13 years old.  I live in Brisbane, Australia. Like all Aussies, I love the beach and particularly surfing and snorkelling. Just off the coast of where I live lies The Great Barrier Reef.  It is one of the Seven Great Natural Wonders of our World. It stretches for 1600 miles and is home to thousands of species of sea life including the humpback whale, dolphins, porpoises, sea turtles and thousands of species of fish. My Dad often takes me out with him to dive and explore this amazing underwater world.  However, in school we have been learning that the warmer water temperatures brought on by climate change is effecting our coral reef and threatening all the wonderful life that lives there.  Scientists say that our oceans have more acid in them and this is causing the coral to turn white and die.  We must reduce our carbon emissions.  If we don’t, this amazing natural environment and all its life forms will be lost forever.   Pope Francis, when you meet world leaders please tell them about this.   

Caoimhe: Pope Francis, Dia dhuit.  My name is Caoimhe and I am 9.  I live in Cork City in Ireland. I love reading and playing games on my tablet.  Last year during storm Desmond our home was flooded.  There was thousands of Euros worth of damage.  My mammy cried and cried when she saw all the ruined carpets and furniture.  We had to go and live with our cousins in the country for 3 months.  It wasn’t until this happened that I really started to think about climate change.  In Ireland it seems like the seasons are all mixed up at the moment. One year the summer is much hotter than ever before and people find it hard to breathe and the next year we have no summer at all, just endless rain.  The winters here have become drier and are much colder than before. In 2010 temperatures were as low as minus 20 degrees in parts of the country.  My Dad said that has never happened before. Storms and flooding seem to come more often and are more severe too. We know from the TV that this is happening all over the country and in other parts of Europe too. In school we have been learning a lot about climate change and how it is affecting different countries all over the world, particularly the poorest. I think that this is very worrying.  I don’t know what to do.  Please pray for us. 

Narrator: Pope Francis was deeply moved by each young person’s story.  He was terribly saddened by the suffering of so many because of climate change.  He could see that the earth was God’s gift to all of us and that our common home had never been so hurt.  He could see that time was running out and that serious action was necessary.  In his dream, he whispered a prayer to God for guidance and as he did he heard the voices of more young people speaking to him again.  This time they were voices of hope.  The voices spoke of all the ways that young people were helping to take care of the earth.  This is what they said.

Mary: Holy Father, my name is Mary and I am 8 years old.  In school we have learned about the importance of recycling our rubbish.  We have different coloured bins for things like plastic bottles, cans, paper, cardboard and even leftover food.  Nothing is wasted. We are doing this at home as well.  It is my responsibility to fill the blue bin each night and to put it out for collection every two weeks.  I believe that together we can help take care of the earth and make a difference to climate change. 

Des: Holy Father Francis, my name is Des and I am 17 years old.  The student council in our school started a campaign last year to reduce our energy consumption and therefore reduce our school’s carbon footprint.  This meant making sure that everyone takes responsibility for ensuring lights, computers, smart boards, any electrical device or machine was turned off before leaving a classroom.  We also turned down the heating thermostat in the school by 2 degrees. If it get too hot in the classroom, the heating is turned down or off rather than opening a window.  Lots of my fellow students have convinced their families to do this in their homes.  I believe that together we can help take care of the earth and make a difference to climate change. 

Katerina: Holy Father Francis, my name is Katerina and I am 13 years old.  I have come to live in Ireland with my Mammy and Daddy so we can have a better life.  In Geography and Religion we have studied the effects of climate change.  We have learned about all the things that we need to do differently if we want to save our planet for future generations.  Recently, I joined the Eco club in my school.  Just last week, we held a special assembly for the whole school to make everyone aware of the issue of climate justice. We also held a cake and bun sale at break-time and raised over £1000 for Trócaire to help the people of Haiti who were recently hit by hurricane Matthew.  I believe that together we can help take care of the earth and make a difference to climate change. 

Conor: Holy Father Francis, my name is Conor and I am 10.  My mum used to drive me two miles to school every day.  After learning about climate change and the effects that car fumes have on the environment, I now use my bicycle to get to school instead.  My class have helped raise money so that a couple of bike racks could be bought and installed in the school yard.  We regularly have a ‘Walk to School Week’ or ‘Cycle to School Week’ to encourage more pupils to think about how they travel to and from school.  I believe that together we can help take care of the earth and make a difference to climate change. 

Ciara: Holy Father Francis, my name is Ciara and I am 8.  My Granda loves all kinds of animals and all sorts of plants and flowers too. He grows all his own vegetables like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, peas, cabbage, and onions.  He keeps chickens and ducks.  The chickens and ducks wander all over the farm and lay eggs which Granda boils up for his breakfast. This year, I helped him plant some of the vegetables and he says when harvest time comes around I can help him bring in the crop and we will make a big pot of soup.  I can’t wait.  I believe that together we can help take care of the earth and make a difference to climate change. 

Narrator: Pope Francis told the child that, when he woke from his dream, he felt full of hope and energy.  The young people had helped him to see that although the situation was very serious, there were also many reasons to be hopeful. If all the people in the world could come together as one family and promise to live more sustainably, now, and in the future, climate change could be stopped and possibly even reversed.  And so, Pope Francis decided to write to every single person on the planet and ask them personally to play their part.  He called his letter Laudato SiPraise Be which are the first words of a famous prayer called Canticle of the Sun written over 900 years ago by St Francis of Assisi, the patron Saint of Ecology. 

Pledge Prayer (Adapted from SMA Thumbprint Pledge Prayer)

Lord God,

You made us stewards of creation,                                                                                                   yet greed and misuse of resources

are destroying the world you entrusted to us.                                                                                                                                                                  Those who do least to cause climate

change are unjustly suffering the most.

They are without water, land, livelihoods

and many are forced to leave their homes.

As I hold this cross in my hand, I pledge to join Pope Francis                                                                                                                and all our brothers and sisters across the world                                                                                                  to take greater care of our common home.

As I hold this cross, I pledge to do what I can with my family,                                                                                                         my school and the local community.                                                                                                                                

As I hold this cross, I pledge to reduce, reuse and recycle.                                                                                                                                         

And to seek to live a simpler, fairer and more sustainable life.

As I hold this cross, I pledge to use your gifts wisely and carefully,                                                                                                  mindful that what I do today will affect our world,                                                                                            the lives of others far, far away and generations yet to be born.

Lord God, we ask you for the strength to put this into action                                                                                             in our lives and in the witness that we give to others.                                                                                                  We make this prayer through Christ Our Lord.


Sign of the Cross