Respecting no boundaries, the coronavirus arrived in Canada in early March 2020. Upon returning to Toronto from California in mid-March, I went into self-isolation at the Sisters’ summer home near Orillia, Ontario.
Patches of snow still covered the ground and Lake Simcoe was frozen. I began to sketch some leafless trees by the lake.
On my second day of isolation, I strolled by the birch trees near the statue of St. Joseph. Since then, I have been haunted by the image which is expressed in my painting.
In the tree trunk, I saw a First Nations woman standing tall, with arms stretched skyward and her sad eyes cast down to the earth.
We lamented the suffering and rapid spread of COVID-19 throughout the world and spoke of the interconnectedness of all creation. Here I was, happy to be in the presence of a First Nations Water Carrier.
As we talked about climate change and the urgency of protecting water, the words of Prime Minister Trudeau, medical and scientific experts echoed in my ears: “Wash your hands frequently, keep two meters apart, and stay at home.”
I thought of the lack of the basic human right to water experienced by so many people worldwide. And how is it that there are still areas in Canada where First Nations people lack clean water or live with boiled water alerts? It was good for us to share our concerns and hopes regarding water as well as asking ourselves, “What is ‘the more’ we might be called to as a CSJ Blue Community?”
We wondered if this pandemic with its loss of life, job closures, safe distancing, and creative new inventions might result in a change of attitude towards climate change, which is linked to the health and sustainability of our planet.
I Thirst is my prayer for peace and unity as more countries dream and act together with our committed youth in discovering new ways to preserve and protect our Common Home.
During the May 2019 meeting of the International Union of Superiors General, Sr. Teresa Maya stressed that “Hope is the gift of communion.” It is this great hope that the Christ made known at the Last Supper and that he comes to renew in us at each Eucharist. Armed with the active presence of the Risen One, we dare to build bridges, according to our charisms and the inspirations of the Spirit. Let us ask for the grace not to shy away from the challenge of being missionaries of communion.
In our congregation, not only do we think, pray and create in response to social issues, including the pandemic, but, many times, we are also called to action.
Here are some examples of water justice-related action taken prior to COVID-19:
After listening to and being inspired by 18-yearold Kehkashan Basu at the Conference of the Parliament of Religions, I introduced her to a supervisor of environmental studies at the TCDSB (Toronto Catholic District School Board). As a result, she was invited to be the keynote speaker in June 2018 at their Environment Summit for “EcoSchools” which engaged 350 elementary students.
In November 2019, Sr. Evanne Hunter, CSJ, and I invited Kehkashan to lead a session with women and men religious and lay residents and staff at Presentation Manor in Scarborough, Ontario. She shared stories of her work with youth in 15 countries (including many in refugee camps) related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Youth are inspired by her and many have become members of her Green Hope Foundation which she formed at age 12.
For more information on CSJ action related to water & climate justice, visit:
Sr. Betty Lou Knox, CSJ
This text is taken from the Summer 2020 issue of the ad vitam webzine “Laudato Si’: Caring for Creation and future generations”.