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SSNDs Participate in People's Climate March 2014

Participants in the People's Climate March included SSNDs, associates and colleagues. With the SSND banner are, from left, Carol Fay and Sisters Loreen Spaulding, Ann Scholz, Eileen Reilly (behind Ann), Patricia Murphy, Bernadette Ballasty (behind Patricia), Miriam Jansen and Justine Nutz (behind Miriam).

School Sisters of Notre Dame, associates and colleagues joined with more than 300,000 people in New York City on Sunday in the People's Climate March to demand action on climate change.

The march - billed as the largest climate march in history - was held in advance of the United Nations Climate Summit, which convenes this week in New York.

"For me the Climate March pointed to the reign of God in our midst and was a call to act for justice," said Sister Bernadette Ballasty. "The group marching was a sign of unity representing different religious beliefs, areas of the country and other nationalities, ages and participating groups. But all united for a common purpose that benefits our planet and the different communities of life here. It  gives me hope that we will act upon it."

Committed to saving the planet

"Walking behind our banner filled me with gratitude and pride in SSND and with joy in being together with young parents and babies, wheelchairs and walkers, college students and grandparents," said Sister Justine Nutz, SSND. "I spoke to people with happy SSND connections: a young Japanese woman educated at our college in Kyoto; another who just graduated from Mount Mary University in Milwaukee; two elderly gentlemen who were graduates of Madonna, Fort Lee, New Jersey; a woman graduate of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Manhattan; and a mother whose daughter just started college at Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore. 

"We heard people calling to us, 'Thank you, Sisters!' and giving us thumbs up. While singing Blowin' in the Wind  accompanied by Peter Yarrow's guitar, (of Peter, Paul and Mary), memories of other SSND marches in New York and Washington came back to me. We will not save what we do not love, and this march proved to me that we truly love our planet and are deeply committed to saving her."

Tapping into a common love for Earth

Sister Jane Moran, SSND, lives and ministers in Baltimore but traveled to New York for the march because she recognizes climate change as an issue about which SSND needs to be actively concerned and engaged. She said that the energy, enthusiasm and creativity among the participants was palpable in everything about the event, beginning with the almost two-hour waiting time/prayer service.

"People of all ages and from many religious persuasions (multi-faith and spiritual communities) listened, prayed, celebrated our common faith in spirited celebration before beginning the march," Sister Jane said. "The prayer/reflection allowed us to tap into what binds us together - our common love for the Earth and our passion to restore it!

She said that she believe it was important that SSNDs be in New York for the March because of the call of many recent General Chapters, as well as the foundational principles in the SSND constitution. 

Changing habits

"Last night on a bus trip back to Baltimore, as I reflected on my experience of the People's Climate March, it occurred to me that work on restoring the earth is truly just beginning," Sister Jane said. "There will have to be many changes in the ways we use energy and the resources of the earth. Does each of us really have to have a shower every day? Do we all really need exclusive access to a car? 

"I live a middle-class life and will have to change many of my attitudes and habits. We in religious congregations seem to possess an unspoken area of satisfaction - we do feel that we live simply and in harmony with the earth.  We as citizens of Earth have a lot of work to do. After participating in the Climate March, I think I'm ready to begin!"

All one with God's Creation

A march of the size of the People’s Climate March requires incredible organization, said Sister Patricia Murphy, SSND.  As part of the last major group (the faith community) to enter the actual march), Sister Patricia and the SSND group stood for more than two hours waiting their turn. During that time, they sang and prayed with people of every imaginable faith tradition and of no faith tradition.

"I had the overwhelming sense that we were all one with each other and all God's Creation," Sister Patricia said. "I was thrilled to see so many young people on fire for this cause sing with many men and women religious. I was proud that our SSND delegation included sisters, associates and colleagues.  It was a relief  finally to march and upon reflection, I realize it was a grace just to stand for the future of the planet."

Promoting unity, oneness

Sister Arlene Flaherty, OP, director of the SSND Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office for the Atlantic-Midwest Province, said, "Just as the Spirit of God moved over the waters bringing all to life, the Faith Community's presence at the Climate March in NYC was evidence of the Creator's presence and power alive in our midst.  

"As one of the Shalom justice directors, it was particularly inspiring and energizing to walk with the SSNDs, associates, partners in mission from the Academy of the Holy Angels, women religious of many different congregations and the wider Interfaith Community at the People's Climate March. It was a profound spiritual experience to walk in the power of the SSND charism of promoting unity and oneness and to offer that charism alongside that of the many other women's congregations, so that peace, justice and integrity will flourish on Earth."

SSND marches in London

Sister Miriam Bruder, SSND, marched in London, where she estimated there were some 40,000 participants walking along the Embankment and Whitehall to Parliament Square. Actress Emma Thompson was among the leaders of the march and she, along with the Bishop of London, and a few others addressed the crowd. 

"I felt I had to be there to put my body where my mouth is regarding the urgency of addressing the climate change crisis at all levels," said Sister Miriam. "As we inched our way along, I found myself consciously making each step a prayer for the United Nations meeting to come and for the fruitfulness of the demonstrations around the world to move us all to a better way.

"There was a wonderful spirit, and we enjoyed warm, sunny weather. May all the efforts by so many around the world bear fruit as, together, we address the ecological crises of our times with audacity and hope."

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