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The 92-year-old nun that’s standing with our youth to help fight climate change

The veteran campaigner says that we must respect planet

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Fighting back: Dominican nun Sister Lelia took part in the climate change rally in Belfast in November last year. Credit: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Fighting back: Dominican nun Sister Lelia took part in the climate change rally in Belfast in November last year. Credit: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Fighting back: Dominican nun Sister Lelia took part in the climate change rally in Belfast in November last year. Credit: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

This is the 92-year-old Belfast nun standing up for the planet.

While last year’s Cop 26 summit brought droves of young people out onto the streets calling loudly for action on the environment, Sister Lelia quietly came out in solidarity with them.

She walked the stretch along Royal Avenue to Belfast City Hall to raise awareness of the climate crisis.

Sister Lelia has been impressed and inspired by Greta Thunberg, saying the Swedish activist should continue to lead the fight for change on green issues.

“There was a lot of highlighting about this meeting in Glasgow, and the heads of state were gathering and we were encouraged to think all about climate change. I felt strongly that not all people were enthused about it — they had other things on their mind,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.

“It was the youth, but the older people do their little bit too from time to time,” she laughed.

The Dominican Sister, originally from Co Longford and who resides at St Catherine’s Convent on the Falls Road, said she had been invited by a friend whose daughter was a member of Friends of the Earth.

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“When she said to all of them that she was bringing me, they were all very excited because I was part of the Friends of the Earth here 20 years ago,” she explained.

“It was great, we didn’t think we would have such a long walk. It renewed my own energy and enthusiasm.

“It was a youth day and it was linking up with what we could do as a result of this summit in Glasgow.

“I don’t know that much has happened [since].”

Sister Lelia explained that her upbringing instilled sustainable values in her long before she found the environmental group.

“You grew up in the Second World War with all the rationing, reusing things and making the most of everything,” she added.

“I was always into recycling and some of the sisters used to say ‘be careful you don’t recycle yourself’.

“One sister, I used to drive her crazy, I was such a fanatic about it.

“I’m hearing now after 20 or 30 years that I was one of the first to be highlighting recycling and reusing.”

Sister Lelia believes it is up to everyone to play their part on climate change.

“There are a lot of good lay people in the world, and religious sisters and brothers who are good examples too. There are different strands of society who are doing their bit,” she adds.

She acknowledges how many young people are very dedicated and “very conscious of the state of the world”.

Of Greta Thunberg she says: “That young girl from Sweden, she can get her message across and has a good following, she’ll have to keep it up!”

She added that there are practical teachings in religion for people on the issue.

“At times in the past people thought Catholics took no interest, they are [only] spiritual. But the Psalms that we say regularly every day are very inspiring in praising nature.

“To respect God’s creation, respect is the big word.”


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