Senior Works to Address Climate Change

Sam Hargadon ’24 thought of his backpacking trip through the rugged wilderness at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, as a thrilling high adventure. But it turned out to be life changing, convincing Sam about the urgent need to conserve the environment.
“I hiked for 11 days in the backcountry there,” Sam says, “and the time I spent allowed me to grow closer to God, to those who accompanied me on the trip, and most of all, the world around me that I have been gifted to live in.”
He joined the Environmental Club at Saint Viator, and for the last two years participated as a leader at the Catholic Youth Climate Summit. The one-day event took place at Saint Viator for the first two years, and this year, delegates gathered at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago. It’s closing Mass took place at the nearby Church of the Holy Family in Chicago, celebrated by Cardinal Blase Cupich, with Br. John Eustice, C.S.V., assisting as deacon.
As one of the leaders planning the Summit, Sam met in regular Zoom meetings with other teens and representatives from the Archdiocese of Chicago as well as the Catholic Climate Covenant, which is based in Washington D.C. They discussed issues that they had seen in their own lives regarding the environment and how they could address them. They also planned each part of the Summit, including its Mass, small group activities and speakers.
“The biggest thing I took away from the Summit is that we must make a change urgently,” Sam says. “Climate change is already affecting the lives of people throughout the globe, and we as Catholics are called to do something about it. 
“At the Summit, we were able to explore ways in which we can make our schools more sustainable, eco-friendly places,” he added, “which allows us to be a part of the solution to the climate crisis which faces the world.”
Some of the ways to advance change that Sam and the other delegates came up with were unplugging devices for the weekend and changing from plastic utensils to ones that can be composted. 
“The Environmental Club has made strides to reduce the use of plastic in the cafeteria and implement recycling there,” he added.
Deacon Br. John Eustice, C.S.V., a former Campus Minister and Vice President of Mission & Viatorian Identity at Saint Viator, felt this year's liturgy spoke deeply to the young people who attended. He described the impact of seeing a young person from the St. Kateri Center of Chicago, who is a member of the Arikara Ojibwe Tribe, lead the Summit in the traditional four directional prayer, cleansing the space for the Mass.
"Several participants commented on how they saw a direct connection between the liturgy and the work for environmental justice," he said. "I am hopeful that the voice of young people will increase and change for a better common home will ensue."
Located in Arlington Heights, IL, Saint Viator High School is a private, co-ed, Catholic school for grades 9-12. Students benefit from a challenging academic program, fine and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.