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Salford: Schools take lead on climate action after environmental summit

Bishop John with students from Our Lady’s RC High School, Manchester

Young Catholics are calling time on inaction on climate change after meeting for a key environmental summit.

More than 40 students from secondary schools across the Diocese of Salford met to share ideas and solutions to some of the biggest environmental challenges we face in a hopeful environment summit last week.

The summit comes on the back of a dynamic program from the Guardians of Creation project – a nationwide initiative being piloted in the Diocese of Salford, aiming to lead the Catholic Church in England and Wales into a future of sustainability.

Dubbed ‘Laudato Si’ Champions ‘in connection to Pope Francis’ environmental teachings, these students met to discuss their ideas in the program’s first ever youth summit on Friday 15th July.

The day included a range of powerful and inspiring sessions, which saw students present their ideas for a more sustainable future, before taking part in tree planting and meditation sessions, and finally burying a time capsule of their hopes and ideas, before closing with a prayer .

Throughout the day, students expressed a desire to see changes to the way we recycle, travel, generate energy, and care for creation.

This vision is not only underpinned by scientific learning but is also rooted in their strong Catholic faith; ideals central to our own diocesan mission and frequently heralded by Pope Francis.

One student, from Our Lady’s RC High School in Manchester, said: “As a Catholic Christian, it’s important to be stewards of the world, and not to just take dominion of the world – although God did give it to us. It’s also really important to be very grateful for what we have, and we show that gratefulness – and that gratefulness to God – by taking care of everything. “

A fellow student added: “It’s really important to put our faith into action. At Our Lady’s, our mission statement is to know, love, and serve God, and we will be serving God by protecting the environment and those who inhabit it.”

However, the students – who come from across Greater Manchester and Lancashire – felt frustrated by the inaction of governments, authorities, and older generations, and are now stepping up to take responsibility in instigating the changes they want to see.

One student from Our Lady’s RC High School said: “I’m very worried about the future and I also feel like with the environment and how things are going, what we really, really need to do is not only take small actions ourselves but apply pressure to those in power because they make a lot of the decisions. “

Speaking about the day, another student said: “I’ve loved seeing so many young people like myself here today being so enthusiastic because we need to join up as a young generation to help combat climate change.”

The schools that took part were All Hallows RC High School (Salford), Brownedge St Mary’s Catholic High School (Bamber Bridge), St Bede’s High School (Blackburn), St Damian’s RC Science College (Ashton-under-Lyne), Our Lady’s RC High School (Blackley), St Peter’s RC High School (Manchester).

The meeting took place at the Laudato Si ‘Center, an environmental hub to inspire sustainable practice, based at the Bishop of Salford’s residence at Wardley Hall.

The Right Reverend John Arnold, Bishop of Salford and environmental lead for the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, was delighted to welcome the students and believes young people are the key to a greener future.

He said: “As I travel round the diocese meeting our young people in schools and parishes, I am encouraged by their enthusiasm, innovation, and commitment as we look for new ways to care for our common home. We can all learn so much from them and I am looking forward to seeing their ideas and taking action. “

Speaking to the students during the event, Ruth-Anne Walbank said: “Thank you for your energy and enthusiasm. This is just the start of a great journey, and I can’t wait to see what you do next.”

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