The Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish in Krakow

December 14, 2016

By Tomás Insua, Executive Director of GCCM – Dec 12, 2016

As we quickly approach the end of 2016, I would like to share the story of what I found to be the key highlight of our year at GCCM, which was an amazing “Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish.” That is the story of our #LiveLaudatoSi campaign in World Youth Day, which happened 4 months ago in Krakow, Poland.

Our first day in Krakow was very frustrating for me. It started really well as I was very excited about the fantastic team that we had assembled with several of our member organizations (Archdiocese of Manila, CIDSE, CAFOD, CYNESA, Catholic Earthcare Australia and others) to advance the Laudato Si’ message at WYD. If so many of the key Laudato Si’ leading organizations were there in Krakow working together, it should be a guarantee of success.

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But reality turned out to be quite more challenging. Namely, at the end of the inaugural WYD mass we started promoting our Laudato Si’ Eco-Village events (which were scheduled to happen throughout the week) by engaging the crowd of nearly 1 million youth with our promotional materials while wearing our green Laudato Si’ t-shirts. The math was simply overwhelming: it was about 12 of us engaging a massive crowd of 1 million people, and we ended up talking to about 500 of them.

The expressions “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here” and “what good are these for so many?” became terribly vivid.

But most importantly, what struck me the most was the fact that the overwhelming majority of youth we approached had never heard about Laudato Si’ or the broader interest of Pope Francis in the ecological crisis. These were all very committed Catholics who had traveled hundreds or thousands of kilometers to see the Holy Father, but were unaware of one of the key issues in the Pope’s agenda.

It was a harsh reminder about the size of the tiny “Laudato Si’ bubble” in which many of us, who work in the Catholic ecology nexus, live. The vast majority of the Church has paid very little attention (if any) to Laudato Si’, what is understandable when looking at the cases of other encyclicals. But what makes this encyclical different is that the urgency couldn’t be more dramatic. We simply cannot afford the slow rate of adoption of Laudato Si’, because “we can see signs that [the planet is] now reaching a breaking point” (LS, 61).

So the task for that week’s campaign, i.e. to advance the Laudato Si’ call among WYD attendees, turned out to be very daunting. Being there in the ground, engaging the universal Church assembled to meet Pope Francis, was a stark reminder of the enormity of the challenge.

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The following 4 days went as planned, with some fruitful events in our Laudato Si’ Eco-Village, convened in a parish and park in the Krakow suburbs. Together with our partners we delivered some great activities to educate the WYD pilgrims about the Pope’s ecological call: a concert, a Laudato Si’ Animators training, workshops, selfie stations, etc. The results were great and the feedback was very positive. But the math was still the same: we had engaged over 1000 pilgrims, but there were still another million pilgrims out there that we were out of reach. Our five loaves and two fish continued to seem minuscule.

In parallel, Laudato Si’ was totally absent in the WYD main events. I was expecting that, this being the first WYD after the release of Laudato Si’, there would be some talk about the encyclical in the main WYD stage. But nothing happened. A million pilgrims watched that stage throughout the week, but not a single word was uttered about Laudato Si’ or creation care, even if we had just celebrated the one year anniversary of Laudato Si’ a month earlier.

That made it even more urgent to pursue the idea we had to showcase the Pope’s creation care video that we were using to promote the upcoming Season of Creation together with the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. This video featured Pope Francis on camera, inviting us to pray and care for creation, and had a call to action to visit our ecumenical Season of Creation website.

Our Polish volunteer Renata Lukaszewicz had been trying to engage with the WYD organizing team, asking them to include this video in the official program, but it was proving hard to get an answer confirming it would be showcased. As days passed by and Laudato Si’ continued to be absent from the program, we persisted in looking for ways to contact the WYD team.

And then the unexpected happened. Renata found out that the person we were looking for, the priest who was in charge of the official program for the last WYD day, was the pastor of the parish hosting our Laudato Si’ Eco-Village! So Renata walked straight to the parish office, got the priest’s phone number, and things happened.

That is how the loaves and fish multiplied: the “Pope’s Creation-Care Video” was showcased right before the WYD final mass, in front of 3 million people.

The “September 1st Pope Video” being showcased on WYD screensThe “Pope’s Creation-Care Video” being showcased on WYD screens

Watching that video, together with that massive crowd, was absolutely thrilling, one of the most moving moments in my life. And it was the only moment in the whole WYD week when Laudato Si’ and creation care were mentioned, so it was a critical contribution to remind the universal Church assembled in Krakow about the importance of this issue.

It was so comforting to know that, when we give everything we have, as little as it might appear to be, God will take care of multiplying it. Even if GCCM’s five loaves and two fish were minuscule in Krakow, that was enough for God to take care of it and multiply it.

The Pope Video that was showcased in Krakow

This story illustrates why GCCM’s ministry matters so much. We have a very tiny secretariat (4 full-time staff) serving the Church across the globe and in multiple languages, working hard to bring Laudato Si’ to life together with our committed friends and partners from the GCCM Steering Committee and our broader network of Member Organizations (such as those who helped us run the WYD project in Krakow), plus the Laudato Si’ Animators and the rest of the movement. And even if our resources are incredibly scarce, the fruits of our ministry are very abundant, as accounted in the Top 10 Highlights of GCCM in 2016.

As 2016 draws to a close, I encourage you to continue praying for GCCM and start planning for the busy year ahead. And why not, please consider donating to our ministry so we can expand our programming and global reach to serve the Church to bring Laudato Si’ to life.