Several hundred Sisters of Mercy of the Americas gathered for a Walk for Water in Buffalo on Friday morning, June 23. The threat of lightning shortened a walk planned from the sisters' conference site to Canalside, but did not put a damper on their commitment to advocating for the human right to water. A blessing followed a walk up and down Main Street with Community leaders and representatives from the nearby Seneca and Cayuga Native American Nations.
In response to the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement earlier this month and to all threats to our Earth, the Sisters of Mercy decided to take action as part of their Critical Concern for Earth, specifically the universal human right to water.
"We stand in prayer and solidarity with Native Americans and other communities around the world whose water, land and health are threatened by the pollution that comes with carbon emissions," said Sister Pat McDermott, Institute President of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. "We challenge ourselves to do better to protect our sacred, God-given resources and join Pope Francis in his call to recognize water as a right consistent with our inalienable dignity."
During today's event, guest speakers and participants joined in prayer, discussed ways to address water issues and protect the Great Lakes ecosystem, and read from Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change and responsible environmental stewardship.
Bonnie Lockwood, a representative of New York Congressman Brian Higgins and the daughter of a Mercy Associate, said, "Your walk for water ... represents active, unified engagement in this fight to protect, promote and preserve our natural assets for all people."
Next, Mayor Byron Brown of the City of Buffalo greeted the sisters, welcoming them to the city and declaring June 23, 2017, as Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Day in Buffalo.
New York State Senator Tim Kennedy discussed the serious threats to water in the city and throughout the world He shared his gratitude that Sisters of Mercy lent their voices to this cause. "When you get such an effective, historic and revered group like the Sisters of Mercy to spread the message ... we are forced as a society to pay attention, because we know inherently that sisters are on the side of righteousness. Your message is the right message, and we are hearing you loud and clear!"
Maria Maybee, a member of the Seneca Nation who had accompanied the group on the witness event described the journey that led her to her passion for water and for Earth and her current work to help educate indigenous tribes and the community. "All over the world," she said, "indigenous peoples' right to clean water is squashed. What happened at Standing Rock was like a coyote waking people up." Water, she said, is so critical to protect: "It is one of the most sacred gifts, most sacred medicines we have."
The Walk for Water was part of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Chapter meeting from June 19-29. Buffalo holds special significance for the Sisters of Mercy who first founded their Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas during a gathering here in 1991.