To Joce Mendes of Brazil, Laudato Si’ doesn’t just represent a guide for the future. Pope Francis’ world-changing encyclical on climate change and ecology represents a way to transform our world as we know it.
“[Laudato Si’] is the hope of being able to dream of a new heaven and a new earth, to transform ourselves into new women and men,” she said.
“We can repair our attitudes, recreate thoughts and actions, especially in our way of living on the planet. [We can] be a model for those who still do not know where to begin to care for what the Creator left us.”
In the Brazilian state of Amazonas, Mendes works as an art educator for Uatê, which has an indigenous and Amazonian identity. She also performs and directs for the theater company.
To finish her Laudato Si’ Animator training, she used all of her skills to bring attention to her beloved Amazon. Mendes performed in and helped create a 24-minute theatrical video that spreads Laudato Si’’s message of hope and care for creation.
“[Laudato Si’] has shown us that we need to take care of what the Creator has created,” she said.
She has company in cherishing the life-giving rainforest. In February, Pope Francis released “Dear Amazon,” his response to the synod of bishops on the Amazon. Pope Francis endorsed the role of indigenous people as the guardians of creation.
“The businesses, national or international, which harm the Amazon and fail to respect the right of the original peoples . . . should be called for what they are: injustice and crime,” he wrote.
Fires in the Amazon have increased in recent years, devastating irreplaceable biodiversity and releasing carbon into the atmosphere that had been captured in trees.
Last month, the number of fires in Brazil’s Amazon increased 20 percent compared to a year ago and reached a 13-year high for the month, according to government data.
Ranchers have illegally invaded land that is protected by indigenous communities, setting fires to destroy the forest for cattle.
Such deforestation has increased under Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro, who has compared indigenous people to animals and, without evidence, has said NGOs are responsible for the fires.
But Mendes sought to raise awareness about the Amazon earlier this year, so she signed up to become a Laudato Si’ Animator, a champion for Catholic action on climate change.
For six weeks, she and thousands of classmates around the world came together weekly through Zoom calls to connect and learn about Laudato Si’ and the root causes of climate change.
Animators learned from leading experts and shared their thoughts on the assigned readings and videos. As a global movement caring for creation, the Animators graduated from the program with a final project that changed their community.
“For me, [Laudato Si’] represents an internal and external mobilization for the re-enchantment of our common home, the listening to the Amazon, to the creatures and above all it represents the cry of God for Mother Earth,” she said.
Mendes graduated in June, but the next class of Laudato Si’ Animators starts 29 July. Bring change to your community: Sign up to become an Animator today!