Share Lent puts ‘People and Planet First’

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – As Canada begins to step out from under the shadow of COVID-19, Canada’s Catholic development agency is greeting the new day and Canadian politicians with its most ambitious, spiritual and political Share Lent campaign in years.

The People and Planet First campaign builds on Development and Peace / Caritas Canada’s five-year commitment to Laudato Si’. The organization wants to translate Pope Francis’ 2015 religious, ethical and political demand that all people of good will act to defend both the environment and poor people against climate change, ecological destruction and marginalization into action.

“Members are really excited because it’s a long-term campaign that we’ve been working on, that we’re able to keep building from it and go further,” said Development and Peace director of communications and campaigns Genevieve Gallant.

Development and Peace’s diocesan and parish councils have begun to meet with their MPs to get them onboard for the People and Planet First petition. The petition asks Parliament to pass a law that would ensure Canadian companies are held to international human rights standards and Canada’s climate change goals.

Development and Peace animator Lore Bolliet and Archdiocese of Montreal council member Violaine Paradis met Nov. 2 with Hochelaga Liberal MP Soraya Martinez Ferrada, prompting Ferrada to present the Development and Peace petition in the House of Commons Feb. 2. Conservative MP Michael Kram from Regina-Wascana met with Development and Peace members Feb. 2 to hear them out. Another Conservative MP, Warren Steinley of Regina-Walsh Acres met with Development and Peace members that same day. Before Christmas, Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu of Sarnia-Lambton ended a meeting with Development and Peace members by recording a Facebook video that endorsed the campaign.

Meetings with legislators will continue, said Gallant.

“Advocacy and meeting with our MPs, and talking about these issues, is really the high point for so many of our committed members.”

Direct engagement with politicians brings Development and Peace back to its founding spirit, said Development and Peace national council vice president Christopher Duncanson-Hales.

“Charity is always important, but as Christians we’re called to change the world,” Duncanson-Hales told The Catholic Register.

This year’s Share Lent campaign comes at the end of a long period of uncertainty, re-organization and downsizing, but turns the page with the organization’s new executive director Carl Hétu, said Duncanson-Hales.

“We’ve been in the upper room for a while and we’re looking to burst out,” he said.

Gallant lays much of the credit at the feet of a new generation of Development and Peace activists.

“The last couple of years, we’ve been visiting Good Friday a lot,” she said. “It feels as though now, with some new energy, we’ve got a team of really young animators across the country who are doing amazing work. We’ve got new leadership from someone (Hetu) who knows us well and I think is one who can bring us back to our roots.”

For the first time in a few years, Solidarity Sunday, April 3, is back on in all the Alberta dioceses, allowing for a direct appeal from Development and Peace members to fellow parishioners at Sunday Masses.

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops president Bishop Raymond Poisson has written to encourage all Canadian Catholics to support the Development and Peace campaign.

Poisson asks parishioners across the country “to place people and the planet at the heart of our priorities, ‘For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power’ ” (1 Cor. 4:20).

For more information about Development and Peace / Caritas Canada visit the website: