In photo above, Herman Barahona, right, with Lucy Silva-Thomas and Vincent Valdez during the Care for Creation gathering in Winters in September 2022.
Herman Barahona, former Catholic Campaign for Human Development intern for the Diocese of Sacramento and lead organizer for the Sacramento Environmental Justice Coalition, has been selected by the Catholic Climate Covenant as a winner in the first U.S. Laudato Si' Champions Awards in the individual category. His award was announced July 27 during the 2023 Laudato Si' and the U.S. Catholic Church Conference, co-sponsored by both Catholic Climate Covenant and Creighton University.
He was selected by Covenant staff after having been nominated by Carol Kinser. Among his accomplishments, the awards committee said, "We were especially impressed by how you not only work with the environmental justice team in the Diocese of Sacramento, but on behalf of all who are forgotten, left behind and suffering as well as your steadfast advocacy work on environmental issues and many others. You are clearly a gifted advocate, friend and faithful Catholic."
In addition, the committee added: "Herman has demonstrated outstanding community activism, particularly focused on marginalized populations. As a member of the Diocese Environmental Justice Committee, Herman goes above and beyond by dedicating extra time to truly listen and understand the strengths and passions of each member. This enables him to effectively utilize everyone's gifts to promote the Laudato Si' Action Platform within the Diocese. Herman embraces Pope Francis' message in Laudato Si' and works towards creating a healthy ecological environment where all individuals can thrive with dignity. He is a champion for environmental justice, advocating for the unhoused, poor, and disadvantaged in Northern California.
"Collaborating with various community groups, Herman regularly advocates for policies that benefit the most vulnerable. Through his monthly community talks on Environmental Justice, Herman empowers citizens to recognize and address the injustices occurring around them. He encourages civic engagement to foster positive societal change within their own communities and shares news about proposed legislation that would aid the marginalized. Herman also participates in environmental science work, focusing on air and soil quality, highlighting the correlation between chronic pollution exposure and structural racism. He helps organize health fairs in marginalized areas of Sacramento, educating the general population about environmental injustice and offering solutions to create a more equitable society.
"As an immigrant from Honduras, Herman possesses firsthand knowledge of the challenges and barriers faced by individuals entering and succeeding in the United States. This personal experience grants him additional influence when engaging with communities, as he comprehends the complexities of these issues.
"Herman's dedication to social justice is further exemplified by his involvement on the board of the Latino Leadership Council and his service on the social justice ministries with the Diocese. His commitment to community activism, environmental justice, and social equity make him a deserving recipient of the U.S. Laudato Si' Champion award. His tireless efforts to empower marginalized communities and create positive change exemplify the principles outlined in Laudato Si'."