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Dr. Carolyn Woo to speak in Vermont

Carolyn Woo, the former CEO of Catholic Relief Services, is shown sitting in the pews with Haitian earthquake survivors in this Jan. 14, 2015, photo in a Catholic church in Port-au-Prince. Woo was there five years after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake shook the impoverished nation. Woo ended her five-year term as CEO of CRS at the end of 2016. (CNS photo/Allison Shelley, courtesy Catholic Relief Services) Carolyn Woo, the former CEO of Catholic Relief Services, is shown sitting in the pews with Haitian earthquake survivors in this Jan. 14, 2015, photo in a Catholic church in Port-au-Prince. Woo was there five years after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake shook the impoverished nation. Woo ended her five-year term as CEO of CRS at the end of 2016.
A former head of Catholic Relief Services will be in Vermont in September to speak at a Year of Creation conference, the signature event of the Diocese of Burlington’s yearlong, statewide, intentional focus on embracing the message of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.”
 
Dr. Carolyn Woo, who from 2012-2016 was president and CEO of the U.S. Church's international humanitarian agency based in Baltimore, will present a personal look at the encyclical she helped Pope Francis present in Rome, at environmental degradation and its effect on the poor and at measures to minimize further environmental harm from carbon emissions and remediate damage already done.
 
In a telephone interview from her home in South Bend, Ind., Woo gave examples of how CRS staff “works face to face every day with the effects of climate warming.” These include working with farmers whose livelihood is negatively impacted by erratic rainfall, which causes problems like drought on one extreme and soil erosion from deluges of rain on the other.
 
She spoke of people who rely on fishing as a livelihood put out of work when a lake dries up and devastation to farmers when crops wither and die. Rises in sea level or storms decimate homes and livelihoods.
 
“At CRS, we have been working for years with the consequences of climate change and also the erratic behavior of weather,” Woo said. “We know that reality through experience.”
 
Catholic Relief Services was founded in 1943 by the Catholic bishops of the United States to serve World War II survivors in Europe. Since then, it has expanded to reach more than 100 million people in 101 countries on five continents.
 
Its mission is to assist impoverished and disadvantaged people overseas, working in the spirit of Catholic social teaching to promote the sacredness of human life and the dignity of the human person. Although that mission is rooted in the Catholic faith, CRS operations serve people based solely on need, regardless of their race, religion or ethnicity. In the United States, CRS engages Catholics to live their faith in solidarity with the poor and suffering people of the world.
 
Woo – who grew up in Hong Kong -- encourages dialogue with persons who consider global warming a hoax, and she encourages them to encounter situations that exemplify the severity of the situation caused by global warming. “We have to walk in their shoes to see what drives their thinking,” she said. “They have probably experienced certain types of framing that suggests all the evidence is false.”
 
Various measures to limit the harmful effects of global warming on the poor have had some success, such as preparing coastal communities for storms to reduce the risk of loss of life and property. These include building homes in safer locations, building sturdier homes, preplanning community responses and mobilizing local and government groups.
 
She offered three key messages about the environment:
 
+ The environment is God’s gift to humankind and is meant for everyone.
 
+ There must be responsibility and action on behalf of this gift so that it is cherished and nourished for everyone.
 
+ There must be dialogue with people who don’t believe climate change is happening, that it damages the Earth and human-made actions affect it.
 
For details on the conference at which she will speak, check vermontcatholic.org/yearofcreation. The conference will be open to people of all faiths.


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Originally published in the 2017 spring issue of Vermont Catholic Magazine.
Last modified onMonday, 27 March 2017 13:58

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