Climate change topic of youth summit at St. Viator

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Climate change topic of youth summit at St. Viator

The Archdiocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Joliet partnered to host a youth summit on climate change at St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights April 9, 2022. More than 70 students from area high schools including St. Viator, Loyola Academy, Nazareth Academy and Trinity High School participated in small and large group discussions and problem solving solutions at their schools and parishes. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Nazareth Academy Junior Evelyn Siffermann smiles while creating an idea board with her group. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Michael Terrien leads a discussion with the 70 high school students. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Catherine “Coco” Thompson, a senior at Loyola Academy, takes notes during a group discussion. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Michael Terrien shares some thoughts for discussion with the teens. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Martine Duplessy from Loyola Academy listens to student presentations. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Students brainstorm on how best to deliver their message on the climate emergency. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Dillan Chuby, a sophomore at St. Viator, gives a presentation of solutions to combat climate change from his break-out group. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Rebecca Guerra from Trinity High School and Paige Natindim from St. Viator discuss topics related to the environment in their break-out group. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Luke Hughes, a senior at Loyola Academy, shares ideas with his group. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Climate change and what can be done about it were the topics of the day when over 60 students from Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Joliet gathered for a Youth Climate Summit on April 9 at St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights.

The idea came from Kayla Jacobs, director of programs for Laudato Si’ Ministries in the Diocese of Joliet, who obtained a grant to underwrite the event.

“I decided to reach out to the archdiocese to see if we could partner together to get even more youth involved in it,” Jacobs said.

The event was sponsored by the dioceses and supported by staff, but high school students planned and ran it. From the Archdiocese of Chicago, St. Viator, Loyola Academy, Nazareth Academy and Trinity High School students participated.

Last fall, students applied to be on the leadership committee. Members of the committee received a small scholarship for their involvement and for the mentoring they received from staff.

Two students acted as emcees and led the composting of materials used that day. The compost was then taken to a Laudato Si’ farm owned by the Diocese of Joliet. Workshop topics included how to create a community garden, how to make your high school environmentally sustainable and advocacy.

“It was a great day and we received a lot of good feedback from the students,” Jacobs said. “We also had prayer and fun time together.”

The student committee is also planning a rally in August around climate change and caring for the earth.

“A cool thing was we also had some science teachers come with the students and one of the teachers gave a presentation. It was cool to see that even staff at schools were interested in getting involved,” Jacobs said.

Knowing that climate change and the environment are important to teens, she wanted to engage the youth around Laudato Si’.

“The church in general always seems to be stressing out about getting young people involved or about young people not going to Mass,” Jacobs said. “And the youth themselves during this process stressed that maybe the church isn’t doing enough around these issues or that they don’t feel quite at home in church, so we also thought it would be a nice way to bridge a gap of getting the youth involved in a church ministry that they are actually interested in.”

Rebecca Guerra, a sophomore at Trinity High School in River Forest, is part of the leadership committee and said she has always had a concern for the care of the earth.

“I’ve always had climate anxiety,” Guerra said.

News reports about climate destruction contribute to the anxiety, but it’s not just that, she said.

“Even when you walk down the street and see a McDonald’s cup, it’s kind of scary,” Guerra said. “I really wanted to spread the message with other young people that this is a problem happening in the world and that we can do something about it. We don’t just have to sit by and let the adults take hold of the situation because someday we’re going to be the adults and we have to do something about it.”

Many ideas came out of group discussions, and one really caught Guerra’s attention. Students noticed how many current positive responses to climate change, such as electric cars and solar panels, are only accessible to the wealthy. The students want to brainstorm ways to change that, she said.

“I can see the passion in these people that they actually want to do something to help and that they all want to come together as one big home, one big family,” she said.


  • catholic schools
  • climate change
  • laudato si

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