Sister of Mercy Edia Lopez took to the streets of Buffalo Friday, 7,000 miles from her home.
The Panamanian sister joined with hundreds of fellow Sisters of Mercy from the Americas, Native Americans and other environmental advocates to rally for clean water in Buffalo, the Great Lakes and globally.
"We sisters understand that the policies that are being made in our countries are having an effect on everybody," the Spanish-speaking Lopez said through an interpreter. "The Earth is suffering."
Sisters of Mercy -- from across the United States, Panama, Peru, the Philippines and several other countries -- converged on Buffalo with an mission to put Pope Francis' call for environmental stewardship into action as a central theme for their once-every-six-years governance meeting.
Borrowing from the Native American tradition of "walking for water," the sisters walked from the Buffalo Hyatt to Cathedral Park and back to the Main Street hotel for a prayer service. Plans for an outdoor prayer service were scuttled with threatening skies.
Coincidentally, Buffalo native Sister Mary Ellen Twist said the Sisters of Mercy were once called the "walking sisters" following their founding in Ireland because of their penchant to leave the convent and go out into the community.
"We're taking that pretty literally and join with the Seneca Nation to become 'water walkers' for Lake Erie," Twist said.
The sisters stressed that programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is defunded in President Donald J. Trump's 2017-18 budget proposal, need to be retained in order to continue the progress in cleaning up the world's largest fresh water source.
They also advocated for programs to assure clean and potable water is a "fundamental human right" across the globe.
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"Every step is a prayer," said Maria Maybee, a Heron Clan member of the Seneca Nation.
Maybee, who grew up along Cattaraugus Creek, initiated an annual walk across the Seneca Nation territory between West Valley and Irving to draw attention to the importance of water to life.
Mayor Byron W. Brown also attended the conference and declared Friday "Sisters of Mercy Day" in Buffalo.
State Sen. Tim Kennedy also addressed the sisters.
"When you get such a historic, revered group such as the Sisters of Mercy," Kennedy said, "we are forced to pay attention because we know the Sisters of Mercy are on the side of righteousness."