Students Roisin Cahill, Kasmira Warwara, Sally Le and Isaiah Rust present their views on the papal encyclical Laudato Si' to the Alberta Bishops June 6.


Students Roisin Cahill, Kasmira Warwara, Sally Le and Isaiah Rust present their views on the papal encyclical Laudato Si' to the Alberta Bishops June 6.

June 13, 2016

Alberta's Catholic bishops listened June 6 as a group of students representing five urban and rural high schools across Alberta told them how they are going to apply Pope Francis' Laudato Si' teachings into daily life.

In the prologue to their document, they wrote "Taking up the Holy Father's call 'to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor' (#49), this document is a call to action and education reform for the Church and Alberta schools."

The program was initiated when Development and Peace regional animator Sara Farid and religious education consultant Edward Jean were talking about another matter a year ago.

They decided to challenge high school students to conserve resources, and the project evolved from there.

The 15 student leaders from across Alberta met weekly to study Development and Peace materials, listen to experts and exchange ideas. The Centre for Global Education helped them use a variety of online tools to collaborate, build consensus, and create community.

A writers' workshop took place June 5 at St. Joseph's College where the students wrote their document, Alberta Students' Call to Action: A response to Laudato Si'.


The document, the authors said, "represents hundreds of hours of student collaboration, and captures the knowledge, opinions, and passion of over 100 Alberta students. . . .

"The purpose of this document is to capture our recommendations for changes that must take place if Alberta schools and churches are to answer the call presented by the Holy Father."

Four students took their message to the province's bishops June 6 - Isaiah Rust from Archbishop MacDonald High School in Edmonton, Sally Le from Father Lacombe High School in Calgary, and Kazmira Warawa and Roisin Cahill from École Secondaire Ste. Marguerite d'Youville in St. Albert.

The students said social or communal change must start with individuals changing themselves.

They suggested using glass, instead of plastic, containers, walking or using public transportation and buying locally-produced food.

Warawa told the bishops she gets information on ecology from the school, not from her Church.

The students told of how they started by sharing such simple things as recycling paper on the home front and taking the same message to their fellow students.

Le told the bishops she believes the conservation message must begin with the young and be practised in the home if the change in behaviour is to be sustained.

Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Bittman told the young people they are agents of change and asked if they would continue practising their conservationist lifestyle. They assured him they would.

Archbishop Richard Smith told the youth that they are different in that they bring the Catholic perspective to their work.

As such, they consider the impact of conservation of resources, not only on their own homes and communities, but also on the earth and the poor of the world, the archbishop said.

The student advocacy group will also hold meetings with various boards of education and with Education Minister David Eggen.