A group of Toronto youth spent their morning cleaning up a local park in celebration of Earth Day. Photo by Marie Gamboa

Spring cleaning reminds youth of Laudato Si’

By  Marie Gamboa, Youth Speak News
  • April 27, 2018

As the first signs of spring began to appear in Toronto, a sprightly team of young Catholics decided to celebrate Earth Day by picking up trash at Christie Pits Park. 

On April 21, the day before Earth Day, six young adults met at the local park at 10 a.m. to participate in a cleanup organized by Faith Connections. Program director Kataryna Ryba said the goal for the event was to pass on the message to other young adults about the importance of taking care of God’s creation.

“I just want to pass on the message that the time to act is now because if we don’t, it’s not going to get any better,” said Ryba. “We need to think, how can we continue passing on the message so that one day we can provide a beautiful, clean world for generations to come?” 

Ryba began the day with a contemplative Earth Day reflection based on Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, Laudato Si’. 

“A fragile world, entrusted by God to human care, challenges us to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing and limiting our power.” (Laudato Si’, no. 78).

“It really reminded me that it’s really easy to take from the world but so much harder to give back,” said Ryba. “We’re living in a critical time. The exploitation and degradation of our home is at an all-time high.”

They discussed their concerns for the environment, their duties as Catholics to take care of the Earth and ways that they can improve their own environmental decisions. These included using reusable grocery bags, reusable water bottles, donating textiles and using reusable mugs the next time they went for a takeout cup of coffee.

After the reflection, the team got straight to work. Each one received a black garbage bag, a blue recycling bag and latex gloves. 

Eighteen-year-old Lily Huang said she was inspired when she realized the significance of the simple, humble act of cleaning a park.

“Coming here to clean up for Earth Day with this warm weather and beautiful scenery really broadened my perspective of how God has given us a beautiful, precious planet and our duty is to care for it,” she said.

The team also noticed they were becoming role models for others in the park. Several people came up to the young crew to thank them for what they were doing. 

One woman took notice and disposed of her litter straightaway.

“Earth Day really makes you think and ask, ‘How can I change what I’m doing to demonstrate my care for the Earth and the creation that God has given us,’ ” she said. 

Ryba hopes to hold more environment cleanups. 

“In the spring, people are really inspired to clean, but what about the fall,” she said, then added with a smile, “Earth Day doesn’t have to be just one day a year. It can be every single day. It all just comes down to our individual choices.”

Faith Connections is a Catholic organization that ministers to Toronto youth ages 18 to 39 years old. It is part of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph Toronto and Fontbonne Ministries.

(Gamboa, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Markville Secondary School in Markham, Ont.)

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