Sr. Mary-Ellen Francouer was among those arrested at the RBC "pray-in" on April 9, 2024. Photo by Martin Reis

Reflections from ‘Nun arrested at Toronto bank protest’

By  Sr. Mary-Ellen Francouer, Catholic Register Special
  • April 22, 2024

I was said nun who was among those arrested at a “pray in” at a downtown Toronto bank.

The title of this reflection is taken from The Catholic Register post of April 9, 2024, as I was said nun who was among those arrested at a “pray in” at a downtown Toronto bank. I was grateful that the staff at the Register saw this as an important story for those who read the paper.  And I felt some amusement that a “nun arrested” was a noteworthy headline.

Some months ago, a number of faith-based people deeply concerned about the suffering of the Earth felt a need to express in a powerful and effective way the need for us, as people of faith, to hear the Cry of the Earth and witness to our need to protect her from the actions of those who use the Earth for profit. As a Catholic, I have been moved by Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ and his later exhortation Laudate Deum on the climate crisis. Already committed to a love relationship with the Earth and the universe, Pope Francis’ words and passion motivated me even more to care for the Earth and all those dependent on her gifts, particularly those most vulnerable. I also have felt one with God, the Creator of all, who, in outpouring love, delighted, and still delights, in creation and continues to see it as “very good.”

The action by our group, Faith and Climate Action, had been prepared with love and prayer over several months. Not only the details of the action, but also our inner disposition of nonviolence and love were given much care full time. This was my first experience of a direct non-violent action, and I chose to enter it willing to be arrested, to put my body on the line for the Earth.

We chose a branch of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) for our action. While all banks in Canada invest in fossil fuels, RBC is recognized as the number one funder of fossil fuels in Canada, and number five in the world according to 2023 report Banking on Climate Chaos ( Scientific experts are telling us that fossil fuels are the greatest threat to the environment and to the climate. The raging fires, floods, droughts of last summer and anticipated this summer, are a testimony to this. As a person of faith, I feel called to respond to this in an active way. 

Banks and governments are highly influenced by the fossil fuel industry. They must all be called to account. Citizens are mounting pressure, non-violently, in many ways, from taking governments to court for not providing infants, youth and seven generations to come with a healthy environment, to ongoing protests by the Indigenous peoples (eg. the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs whose traditional lands and treaties are being disrespected by the building of the Coastal GasLink pipeline), to the protests of many citizens across the country such as the one on April 9 by the Faith and Climate Action Group.

Acting with people of different faiths was a profoundly spiritual experience for me. We pray for Christian unity. Acting together with a common spirit of love for the Earth was deeply uniting and empowering. We prayed together the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address which has the recurring response of: “And now our minds are one.” We felt that unity in mind, heart, body and spirit. I truly wish that all people could have more experiences such as this.

Not all are called to actions described above. However, there are a variety of ways to be involved. If an RBC customer, send a letter to  your branch and the national office demanding that RBC divest from fossil fuels;  join a campaign (see “” for options);  consider moving your account elsewhere, making sure that whatever bank you choose does not invest in fossil fuels. You might also consider supporting the Faith and Climate Action group in our work by responding to a  GoFundMe

Let us grow into the awareness that every action to care for the Earth and all our lives is a matter of faith.