More Than 300 Attend St. Irenaeus Climate Program

Tom Skilling at climate program in Park Forest
WGN’s Tom Skilling speaks at the climate program held at St. Irenaeus Church on June 23, 2019. (Photo: Dominic Balmaseda)

PARK FOREST, IL-(ENEWSPF)- More than 300 persons gathered at St. Irenaeus Church in Park Forest on June 23 for a program sponsored by the Park Forest People of Faith, “Climate Change: The Issues, The Challenges, The Consequences.”

John Ostenburg at climate change program at St. Irenaeus
Former Mayor John Ostenburg was a key organizer of the climate change program held at St. Irenaeus Catholic Church on June 23, 2019. (Photo: Dominic Balmaseda)

The encyclical of Pope Francis, “Laudato Si,” was put forth as the impetus for the climate forum. Former Park Forest Mayor John Ostenburg, in an overview of the encyclical, said, “Following the recommendations of Pope Francis is not a matter of choice; rather it is our obligation.” He recently stepped down as chairperson for the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus Environment Committee, which provides sustainability guidance to 270 communities in the Chicago region.

climate program at St. Irenaeus June 23, 2019
Over 300 gathered for the climate forum at St. Irenaeus Catholic Church in Park Forest on June 23, 2019. Here, Mr. Tom Skilling of WGN News speaks. (Photo: Shelia McGann)

Keynote for the forum was presented by Tom Skilling, highly regarded and nationally respected meteorologist for the super-station WGN. Skilling showed slides and movies on the melting of the polar ice caps, the disappearance of glaciers, and how methane is entering lakes and other water sources. He used examples of weather changes he has witnessed during his more than 40 years of reporting and explained how climate change is causing those events.

Congresswoman Robin Kelly at climate change program in Park Forest
Congresswoman Robin Kelly speaks at the climate change program at St. Irenaeus on June 23, 2019. (Photo: Dominic Balmaseda)

Other speakers included Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-Illinois), who addressed actions and failures on the part of Washington in addressing climate matters, and Dale Sands, co-chair for the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction Private Sector Initiative, who spoke regarding worldwide disasters that are the result of climate change.

Participants in the Climate Change program at St. Irenaeus on June 23, 2019
Participants in the climate change program at St. Irenaeus on June 23, 2019 (L to R): Dale Sands, mayor of Deer Park, an internationally respected consultant on matters relating to climate change and disaster, Tom Skilling, WGN-TV/Channel 9 meteorologist, Nick Battaglia of Park Forest People of Faith, Former Park Forest Mayor John Ostenburg, Father Terry Johnson, pastor of St. Irenaeus Church, Mike Jordan of Park Forest People of Faith. (Photo: Dominic Balmaseda)

Rev. Terry Johnson, the pastor at St. Irenaeus, said following the forum, “It was one of those St Irenaeus and Park Forest moments where I was proud and honored to be a part of this parish and community.” Father Johnson has a history of promoting inter-faith and social justice programs at St. Irenaeus. He has created a food bank that feeds more than 400 families each month and also initiated a community garden on the church grounds that provides fresh produce for needy families. Earlier public forums sponsored by the Park Forest People of Faith at St. Irenaeus have focused on immigration and “Dreamers,” gun violence, and food deserts.

Climate Program Video

The event ran two hours thirty-four minutes. A complete video of the forum follows courtesy the St. Irenaeus YouTube channel:

Climate Program Photographs

Photos from the event by Shelia McGann and Dominic Balmaseda:

See full-size photos here on eNews Park Forest’s Flickr account. Follow us!