During Laudato Si’ Week, communities around the world are overcoming obstacles to celebrate the great progress Catholics have made in bringing Laudato Si’ to life during the past six years. But few communities are overcoming more than Catholics in Trinidad and Tobago.

The twin island nation is feeling the effects of the ecological crisis and climate emergency and has much to lose if temperatures continue to warm and sea levels continue to rise.

Nearly 15 percent of the country, or about 300 square miles, consists of low-lying land that could be susceptible to future sea-level rise, and about 15 percent of the country’s 1.2 million people live on that endangered property, according to a 2018 study.

On top of the climate crisis, Trinidad and Tobago is in the midst of another COVID-19 lockdown that is forcing people to stay home. In the past month, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in the country has more than quintupled, from 76 to 442.

Yet in what otherwise would be a dark week, Catholics in Trinidad and Tobago are serving as the light and hope for all people in the Caribbean.

The Catholic Commission for Social Justice and the Archdiocese of the Port of Spain’s Ministry for Migrants and Refugees are bringing people together for prayer, scripture, reflection, and dialogue on 21 May. Register here to attend.

“We are excited to have them connect to a global event and gather to lift [their] spirits and connect to this critical climate change message,” said Leela Ramdeen, the chairperson for the commission.

Together, people of faith from all over the country will unite during these difficult times to acknowledge God as the Creator of everything, to express their gratitude to God for the gift of creation, and to pray that God may help transform their hearts and minds so that they hear the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.

Leela Ramdeen helps lead creation care in Trinidad and Tobago.

Leela Ramdeen

The service also will give people time to consider their impact on creation, ways they can live more simply, and how they can become an advocate for God’s creation by living in harmony with it.

“Pope Francis’ encyclical provides us with an excellent framework that helps us to raise our own awareness and that of others about the need for us to analyze political, economic, social, cultural, and legal issues that impact on our common home,” Ramdeen said.

“There is an urgency for us to engage in the reflection/action process of [Catholic Social Teaching]: see, judge, act… Converting hearts and minds/transformation will not take place overnight, so it is imperative that we all keep playing our part as we seek to achieve our goals.”

Since the commission’s formation in 2003, Ramdeen said they have been focused on a key principle of Catholic Social Teaching, “Stewardship of God’s creation.”

Those efforts have received a boost from Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon, whose leadership has helped Catholics in the region better understand how they’re called to care for God’s creation and work against the climate crisis.

Archbishop Gordon leads Catholics in Trinidad and Tobago.

Archbishop Jason Charles Gordon

One of his priorities for the archdiocese this year is that all Catholic institutions observe the sixth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical letter by celebrating Laudato Si’ Week and the Season of Creation, the annual celebration of prayer and action for our common home that takes place from 1 September through 4 October.

Archbishop Gordon plans to lead the event with a reflection on the theme of Laudato Si’ Week, “for we know things can change.”

Following his reflection, the service will include a panel discussion featuring young people in the Church. A local priest and Ramdeen also plan to share personal reflections.

“Our aim is to come together with others, virtually, and address not only Catholics but the wider community, particularly as Pope Francis’ encyclical is addressed to ‘every person living on this planet,’” she said. “We will come together in adoration.”