Environment summit

Schools set to lead climate action after inspiring summit

Friday 15th July 2022

Young people from our diocese are striving to lead us to a sustainable future as they meet for a key environmental summit.

More than 40 students from secondary schools across the area met to share ideas and solutions to tackle some of the biggest environmental challenges we face today, and to help instil a culture of hope and agency within our communities.

The summit comes on the back of a dynamic programme from the Guardians of Creation project – a nationwide Catholic-based initiative led by some of the most inspirational environmentalists in the UK and being piloted here in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford.

This programme invited students from across the area to learn more about the environmental challenges we face, the call of the Catholic Church to care for our common home, and to use scientific and technological knowledge to explore sustainable solutions.

Guardians of Creation summitRuth-Anne Walbank, Research Associate at St Mary’s University – one of the partners of the Guardians of Creation project – has organised the summit to bring these ideas together.

She said: “This summit is the concluding event of a pilot research project with over 200 students across the Diocese of Salford, called Laudato Si’ Champions. As part of a wider research initiative about sustainability in Catholic communities, this education programme looks at how we can cultivate a sense of climate hope with young people, finding solidarity in community actions and love for the natural world as we take environmental action in schools.”

Dubbed “Laudato Si’ Champions” in connection to Pope Francis’ environmental teachings, these students met to discuss their findings in the programme’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 and closing with a prayer.

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.”

Students wanted to see changes to the way we recycle, travel, generate energy, and care for creation – something at the heart of our diocesan mission as well as Pope Francis’ teachings.

Schools summitAnother student, also from Our Lady’s RC High School, 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 third 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.”

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’ Centre, 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: “This is just the start of a great journey and I can’t wait to see what you do next.

“Thank you for your energy and enthusiasm and do pass it on to people you meet.”

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