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Writing a Manifesto

Sister Ellen Cunningham

Note: This blog was co-written by Sisters Rosemary Nudd and Ellen Cunningham.

Manifesto: From the Latin “manifestus,” “clear or conspicuous.”

A written statement which makes the goals of certain persons or groups easy to understand, delineates and describes conditions in need of change, and makes recommendations to put change into action.

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another … (“The Declaration of Independence,” 1776)

Die Geschichte aller bisherigen Gesellschaft ist die Geschichte von Klassenkampfen.

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. (“The Communist Manifesto,” 1848)

Whereas this precious and beautiful planet is our mother and our only home … (“The Providence Climate Agreement,” 2018)

Here is a copy of the Providence Climate Agreement Manifesto

Like the founders of our Republic, and the advocates of Communism, we of the Climate Change Task Force felt an urgency about presenting our statement, the Providence Climate Agreement, for it is a crucial step in the Congregation’s journey towards environmental justice.

We knew saying and signing the agreement together would be the “big finish,” yet we needed a “grand beginning,” too. And, when our co-chair Sister Mary Lou Dolan, CSJ, suggested writing a Manifesto, we knew we had it.

Meaningful writing rarely comes quickly – nevertheless the Congregation’s Litany of Non-Violence provided ideal (if distressing) words and phrases with which to delineate and describe humans’ treatment of Mother Earth: Superiority, disdain, irreverence, exploitation, and control; choices based on greed and privilege and acting against or oblivious to the common good.

In a similar way, our recent focus on intersectionality helped illustrate the inescapable connections between people and a dangerously changing planet: Farmers, women and girls, family violence, refugees, people of color.

Given these devastating results of climate change, it is probably not too difficult to commit to work against climate injustice. However, the Providence Climate Agreement goes further, reflecting the desire to do something together which is specific, measurable and significant.

Climate change, as Earth is now experiencing it, is basically global warming. On the scientific level, the primary cause of global warming is carbon dioxide, emitted when fossil fuels are burned – burned to warm or cool our homes, power our vehicles, and produce the goods we consume.

From this awareness, and following in a small way the lead of the historic Paris Agreement of 2015, we on the Climate Change Task Force decided to offer the Congregation an opportunity to set a goal of reducing our carbon dioxide output by 2 million pounds, and to provide a list of feasible activities with estimates of corresponding carbon dioxide savings. To reach the goal of 2 million pounds, we hope to encourage family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to sign on to this Providence Climate Agreement, this statement which describes the “clear and conspicuous … conditions in need of change, and makes recommendations to put change into action.”

Members of the Climate Change Task Force: Co-chairs Sister Mary Lou Dolan, CSJ, and Benjamin Kite, Providence Associate (PA); Lorrie Heber, PA’s Barbara Cottrell, Gene Majewski, Jeanne Rewa; and Sisters of Providence Ellen Cunningham, Corbin Hannah, Jeanne Hagelskamp, Patty Fillenwarth, Marilyn Kofler, Rosemary Nudd, Barbara Sheehan and Patty Wallace.

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The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are a congregation of Roman Catholic women religious (sisters) who minister throughout the United States and Taiwan. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence in 1840. The congregation has a mission of being God's Providence in the world by committing to performing works of love, mercy and justice in service among God's people.

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1 Comment

  1. Carol Nolan, S.P. on October 5, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    Thanks a million for this! I just forwarded it to my family, and am grateful for having it placed in front of me again. .

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