A crude oil well is seen in Loving County, Texas. CNS photo/Angus Mordant, Reuters

Canadian Sisters drop fossil fuel stocks

  • August 7, 2022

Another $500 million in Catholic investment funds world wide have been pulled out of oil, gas and coal, including the portfolios of two of Canada’s most prominent religious orders.

The Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada and Our Lady’s Missionaries have completed the years-long process of getting their money out of energy sources.

“The decision wasn’t a difficult one,” said OLM Sr. Christine Gebel in an email to The Catholic Register. “We were very much aware of global warming, now a climate crisis, and we knew that the people and areas that would suffer first and foremost included those where we had lived and worked for many years. The decision was personal and it was moral.”

The Canadian orders are part of a movement that saw five dioceses in Ireland, the Catholic Theological Society of America, the Jesuits in the eastern United States, Marquette University, Loyola University and 11 different religious orders all firmly and finally end their investments in carbon-based energy.

For the Sisters of St. Joseph, making a contribution to the global divestment movement  “helps us to know we are part of a much larger movement happening in the world,” said congregation leader Sr. Margo Richie.

In total, 35 faith institutions from seven countries announced their completed divestment projects. More than 35 per cent of all divestment commitments globally have been undertaken by religious institutions and churches. That’s the largest single branch of a global divestment movement that now represents more than $40 trillion in combined assets — up from just $50 billion in 2014.

For the Canadian Sisters, getting out of the old economy and embracing new, green economics was a relatively easy process. Our Lady’s Missionaries first broached the idea in 2011, sent a letter to their investment managers instructing them to explore divestment options and completed the process in 2015. The Sisters only finally decided to announce their divestment this year.

“We had long-standing relationships with those managers — very good relationships with them,” said Richie. “We kept asking them and asking them, but they were not able to come up with what we were looking for.”

Beyond just getting out of fossil fuels, the St. Joseph Sisters wanted to put eight per cent of their portfolio into alternative, green energy and other climate-friendly initiatives.

“It was the ethical choice that we wanted to make — to be a small and yet real part of a movement toward alternate forms of energy,” Richie said.

Two years into the process, the Sisters regretfully parted ways with their old investment managers and chose three new firms.

“The companies we chose, they’re not fly-by-night,” Richie said. “It’s not somebody who has got a good idea but they don’t know how to do the business part of it. They are very alert, very astute and they understand what we’re trying to achieve.”

It hasn’t been a good year for anybody’s investments, but Richie observes that the Sisters’ portfolio hasn’t shrunk as much as most others.

“That counts for something right now,” she said.

Last modified on August 8, 2022

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