The following feature derives from a reflection written by Sr. Annette Bikongnyuy, from the Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis, The submission has been edited for brevity and clarity. Learn more about the Laudato Si’ Action Platform by joining Laudato Si’ Week, to take place from May 22-29.  Let’s join Sr. Annette as she reflects on this part of her journey…

“For me, it’s personal” 

When Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ encyclical came out in 2015, I could well relate to it  with my own experience of worsening environmental conditions in Cameroon: water shortage, improper waste management, and the use of toxic artificial fertilizers, to name a few.

Since then, the Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis have rolled up their sleeves and spread themselves out throughout Cameroon to take action for the care of our common home. We focus on hands-on educational experiences and provide resources to encourage justice, peace, and empowerment as we care for creation.

The Youth
We try to involve as many people as possible. However, we primarily invest our energy in youth, as they are the seeds of change. In our schools, we let them know the value of caring for our Earth for our future generations. We find creative ways to involve them, like hosting  school competitions. Students are involved in tree planting, recycling projects, and taking the next step: educating their parents and other adults in their communities. Parents are unbendable, but the children are still tender and receptive to change.

 Commit to our common home: Join a Laudato Si’ Week event near you

Caring for the poor
So many Cameroonians are refugees  in Nigeria. Our sisters are working in refugee camps and giving people hope. They are thirsty for their human dignity to be respected–for someone to love them just as they are. They need our presence.

We broadcast on our local radio station to talk about the climate crisis and ways that everyone can contribute to caring for Creation. We are seeing many people starting to change their ways, like using organic manure, compost, eliminating certain herbicides…it is slow, but we can start to see some of the effects of our work.

Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis work collaboratively in their ministry, maximizing their resources, organizing workshops and creating awareness with other churches, religions, and all people of good faith. For example, we are working with the muslim community in the north and seeing how we can cooperate, as the Sahara desert is fast advancing. 

Overcoming challenges & looking ahead
Sometimes the challenge is that it has not taken root in our own part of Cameroon. The Church can still be very slow in hearing this distinctive voice of our holy Father. However, with our Laudato Si action plan, we’re able to place over 300 sisters throughout Cameroon and do God’s work. We are trying to empower young girls to rise above difficulties and envision a better future, seeing their potential as future leaders. We’re going far and wide to spread awareness. For the upcoming Laudato Si’ Week, we have planted trees to mark its beginning and are excited about all of the initiatives happening around the world. May this time be a time to reflect and gain momentum in our journey to care for our common home and preserve it for future generations.

Learn more about the Laudato Si’ Action Platform by joining Laudato Si’ Week from May 22-29

Read Sr. Annette’s reflection on the Laudato Si’ Action Platform

Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis Resources

Facebook page
Laudato Si’ Action Plan
Eco-Restoration YouTube channel
Eco-Restoration Facebook page
Video: Invest In Our Planet For a Sustainable Future
Video: The Urgency of Reading the Signs of Our Time in the Light of Laudato Si

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