By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
The Catholic Climate Covenant has recognized Burlington native Mary (Martin) Meyers for her “exceptional dedication” to peace and social justice efforts.
Meyers, sister of retired diocesan priest Father Dennis Martin, is a lay leader at St. Jude Parish in New Lenox, Illinois and a member of the Joliet Diocese’s Laudato Si’ commission. She was one of four individual honorees in the inaugural Laudato Si’ Champions Awards, presented virtually earlier this year. The Diocese of Davenport received honorable mention in the diocesan category.
St. Jude Parish nominated Meyers for the award. “Mary is generous of her time, creative, knowledgeable, and has endless energy and passion for helping the environment” and encouraging others to do the same, the parish’s Peace and Social Justice Ministry wrote in a parish announcement. “In all areas of her life, she practices a reverence for all creation.”
At the parish level, Martin established a garden to help people experiencing food insecurity and started a Laudato Si’ book club. She creates informative displays on creation care and promotes fair trade products. She has participated in more than a dozen missions through the Joliet Diocese’s Partnership in Mission program. At home, “she is very mindful of saving water and reducing the use of plastics, among other things,” her brother observes.
“Mary’s commitment to serving all Creation and her nonstop efforts to integrate the principles of Laudato Si’ into the fabric of her community” make her a worthy recipient, the Catholic Climate Covenant stated in a press release. “Her passion and dedication serve as an inspiration to others, demonstrating the power of individual action in creating a more sustainable and just world.” Catholic Climate Covenant, a national nonprofit dedicated to inspiring and equipping U.S. Catholics to care for creation and for the poor, announced the winners during the 2023 Laudato Si’ and
the U.S. Catholic Church Conference.
Meyers, when notified of her award, commented, “I’m not sure how doing what God puts in front of one garners an award, but I am humbled.” Father Martin said, “I could see how she was a great candidate for it.”
Meyers said she became passionate about caring for creation 20 years ago during an educational peace and justice institute. The Joliet Diocese-sponsored program featured monthly speakers, including an Episcopalian minister who spoke about the environment. “I was really touched by the things she said, things I had never thought about before.”
Now, as a grandmother of seven who has worked alongside poor and vulnerable individuals, Meyers feels her responsibility to be a good steward of Earth’s resources even more acutely. “The image I use for myself is a cookie jar full of cookies. If you keep taking them, eventually the jar is going to be empty and there won’t be any cookies left for anyone else. That’s what we’re doing to the Earth and future generations, not leaving anything for them.”
Change starts with small steps, she believes. “When you start with little things, that can build; I think it did with me. Start with recycling, composting, whatever. If you’re really fervent about those things,” you’ll start taking bigger steps. Encouraging others to get involved is another step. “Pope Francis says it starts out with you, but needs to end up being we. We have to work together.”
Meyers is grateful to have support in her journey. Her parish’s Peace and Justice Committee includes about 15 people who share her passion for the environment. “It’s really unique, I think, to have that many people interested and involved.” She added, “I couldn’t have done half of what I do without them.”