During the month of September, Regis University participated in Suicide Prevention Month by addressing the silence and stigma associated with suicide through hosting a screening of “The S Word.” “The S Word” is a new feature-length film that addresses the topic of suicide and was screened on Monday, September 25. The documentary screening was followed by a reception with the film’s director, Lisa Klein, and other individuals who are responsible for bringing the film to Regis University.
The documentary “puts a human face on an often feared and misunderstood topic by sharing the stories of suicide-attempt survivors, their families and loved ones.” The documentary lays close to filmmaker Lisa Klein’s heart because she lost both her father and brother to suicide. Her goal was to create a film that would open much-needed conversation about suicide and boldly discuss. Hosting this film at Regis fits with university’s mission of “cura personalis or care for the entire person.” David Law, director of Student Activities and Leadership at Regis, explained how the university has “been expanding their vision of ‘caring for one another’ into new neighborhoods [and] sharing this movie helps in these efforts.”
“The S Word” is being screened throughout the United States and Canada at universities, community centers, film festivals, etc. Each screening is followed by a discussion with the director and local suicide-prevention experts. For a complete list of dates and venues, to learn how to host a screening or for general information about the film, please visit http://theswordmovie.com or contact Patricia Harris DiLeva at firstname.lastname@example.org
Loras College’s annual Peace and Justice Week, which was from September 17th – 25th, hosted a series of free events centered on the theme “Who is an American?” The week was meant to “highlight the importance of dialogue and learning other people’s stories, then leading to greater compassion and understanding.” One of the vocal points of the week-long celebration includes “A Peace of My Mind: American Stories,” an exhibit by renowned artist John Noltner and International Day of Peace speaker Jim Bear Jacobs, a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation and the associate pastor of the Church of All Nations.
“A Peace of My Mind: American Stories” developed from Noltner’s 40,000-mile journey across the United States simply asking people, “What does peace mean to you?” The collection, which is comprised of fifty-eight people, is meant to encourage thoughtful dialogue and connects viewers to online content for additional videos, articles and discussion questions. A book that was based on Noltner’s display “has been awarded first place in the Beverly Hills Book Awards for Multicultural Nonfiction and runner-up for Photography/Art for the New England Book Festival.”
Click here to learn more about Noltner’s work displayed at Loras College’s Peace and Justice Week.
Wyoming Catholic College is using their campus podcast as a platform to discuss topics such as the existence of God. In a recent September podcast episode, Dr. Thaddeus Kozinski examines Iris Murdoch’s essay “The Sovereignty of Good Over Other Concepts.” In this essay, Murdoch makes the claim that “We [humans] are what we seem to be, transient mortal creatures subject to necessity and chance. This is to say that there is, in my view, no god in the traditional sense of that term; and the traditional sense is perhaps the only sense.” During this same essay she also speaks about virtue, morality, love, beauty and the Good.
Dr. Kozinski began his senior ethics course by having students read and discuss Murdoch’s essay. He then used the podcast as a platform to analyze the paradoxical nature of Murdoch’s argument and why this is a valuable conversation to have. To listen to Dr. Kozinski’s rationale, refer to the episode “Good without God? Iris Murdoch’s Moral Vision with Dr. Thaddeus Kozinksi.”
Catholic universities that have taken Pope Francis’s messages found in Laudato Si’ seriously have been recognized by the Sierra Club’s national magazine. Loyola Marymount University, the University of San Diego, and Loyola University Chicago have been recognized as members of the top 20 green colleges and universities in North America. According to a press release, the schools were rated as “have displayed a deep and thorough commitment to protecting the environment, addressing climate issues, and encouraging environmental responsibility.”
Loyola Marymount University made significant changes, as seen by their jump in rankings from the mid-60s to number six. They are also the first Catholic college or university on the list. The university now has 90,000 square feet of solar panels, an irrigation system that uses reclaimed water, and a university-led recycling plant. They also plan to “divert all food waste by 2018.”
University of San Diego also made significant improvements jumping from number 83 to number 10 in 2017. The University took Pope Francis’s mission to heart by listing “care for our common home” as part of their university mission. It also operates one of San Diego’s only electronic waste recycling centers, and has saved more than 10 million kilowatt hours and 30 million gallons of water annually since 2010.
Loyola University Chicago still remains ranked in the top 20 schools. This year Loyola students partnered with the Archdiocese of Chicago “to conduct energy audits on Catholic churches, cemeteries and hospitals as well as opened a student-run green café and a Compost Collection Network where students train local businesses to reduce waste.”
The scoring was based on 11 categories including energy, investments, good academics, planning, and water. The rankings showcase universities and colleges green initiatives and allow for indications of the campus’s sustainability efforts.
It has been a little over two years since Pope Francis released his encyclical Laudato Si’, “Care for Our Common Home,” which urges Catholics to follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi as he “invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness.” October 4-the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, presents the perfect opportunity to reflect on our call to care for our common home.
One of the ways in which care for the Earth manifests itself is through our dependence upon it for nourishment and growth. Since the release of Laudato Si’, Catholics across the world have responded by making changes that positively affect the world around them. Progress has been made but, according to World Hunger one in every eight people worldwide remain undernourished, leading to the death of about 3.1 million children annually. Catholic colleges and universities are responding to this issue and the call from Pope Francis by creating initiatives that promote food justice and sustainability in their local communities.
Stonehill College has been responding to the food crisis in its local neighborhood since 2011. Stonehill recognized that the neighboring city of Brockton, Massachusetts lacked access to fresh produce due to several social, economic, and geographic barriers. The Farm at Stonehill came about as a solution to this issue. The two-part mission of the Farm is: “to make available, fresh, nutritious, locally grown food to Brockton-area food pantries and meal providers to address food desert conditions, and to enrich Stonehill students’ academic and service endeavors by educating and actively engaging them in local and global food justice issues.”
Most recently, the Farm at Stonehill launched its Mobile Market. Using a $10,000 grant from the Vela Foundation, a $5,000 grant from Project Bread, and a $1,250 grant from Inner Sparks Foundation, the Farm is able to sell organic produce at or below market cost in the parking lot near the Brockton community center. Bridget Meigs, the Farm manager, says “A partnership with Project Bread specifically is exciting because we share their vision of implementing both immediate and long-term solutions to food access issues in Massachusetts. Together, we are taking steps to have a significant impact on food accessibility and personal empowerment for a diverse community of people seeking to make healthier choices for themselves and their families.”
One of the goals of the Mobile Market is for Brockton residents who do not live near a grocery store to easily access healthful food options. The Mobile Market also partners with other organizations in order to increase general wellness in the community by offering cooking demonstrations, providing recipes and nutritional information, and focusing on the relationship between healthful eating and the dignity of the human person.
Another Catholic university that has dedicated time and resources to addressing food justice and food sustainability issues is Walsh University. Walsh is incorporating these themes into its course curriculum by partnering with local Canton, Ohio non-profits on various service-learning projects. According to the university, service-learning enables students [to] learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized service that meets actual community needs, is integrated into the students’ academic curriculum, and that fosters civic engagement and person development through structured reflection. Several business, English, and leadership courses partner with local non-profit StarkFresh and aid in its mission “to help break the cycle of poverty by increasing people’s consumption of fresh, locally-sourced foods through equal food access and educational opportunities for everyone.”
Abigail Poeske, the director of service-learning at Walsh University, explains how an English course titled “Professional Writing” and a business course titled “Global Information Systems” collaborated to create new marketing and outreach materials for StarkFresh. StarkFresh came to class to speak about its mission and what the organization is looking for in terms of new marketing tools, she says. In addition, students received a tour of StarkFresh and its urban teaching farm. From there, students broke off into groups to create marketing and outreach tools designed specifically for StarkFresh. Poeske adds that working with StarkFresh has helped make “students aware of the issue of food insecurity globally, locally, and even on campus, and has inspired and empowered students to do something about it.” The work of food justice and food sustainability, she concludes, is part of Walsh’s mission to “educate leaders in service to others through values-based education in the Judeo-Christian tradition.”
Santa Clara University (SCU) is another Catholic institution taking initiative to fight for food justice and community development. The Forge Garden is the university’s organic garden that acts as a hub for sustainable food education. Since the 2008 opening of the Forge Garden, 900 pounds of produce have been harvested and 232 pounds have been sold to SCU Dining Services. The Forge engages the community to promote food justice through a series of workshops, events, and programs. One of the most successful programs is Bronco Urban Gardens (BUG), which is SCU’s food justice outreach program. According to the university, BUG works in “solidarity with marginalized neighborhoods, supporting their urban garden projects and spaces in order to create hands-on learning experiences for students of all ages and backgrounds.” This work is accomplished through partnerships with underserved schools and marginalized communities in Santa Clara County that create engaging learning spaces and inclusive garden-based curricula. Students from SCU volunteer at the schools by hosting garden clubs and workshops for students to increase their knowledge about gardening and healthful eating, delivering fresh produce to schools, and supporting teachers in their goal of providing hands-on lessons. Bronco Urban Gardens gives students the opportunity to show how they can make a difference in their communities and the world by recognizing how what they eat affects their environment.
By focusing on food justice and food sustainability, students as Catholic colleges and universities are living the call “to care for our common home.” These colleges and universities hear both the cry off the earth and the cry of the poor and are responding to this call by putting their faith into action. They embody the mission of Laudato Si’ through their work of helping people receive proper nutrition and educating people on the benefits of locally sourced produce.
Manhattan College alumni have continued their work of service after their college days. Steve Smith and Stephanie Minister have been serving on the Board of Directors of the United States Foundation for the Children of Haiti (USFCH) since 2013. The organization works to “improve the lives of underprivileged and disabled children in Haiti by providing medical care, housing, and education.”
The two alumni were reunited 1,500 miles from their alma mater in Haiti and were reconnected thanks to their shared work for USFCH. Smith manages grant applications and Minister supports USFCH’s social media outlets. USFCH started as a single orphanage and has grown to aiding schools, hospitals, and their newest project, the Christian Institute for Technical Training (C-Tech). C-Tech will offer “programs in trades where there is a need for the technical skills in order to help graduates find employment when they complete their schooling.”
Smith and Minister attribute their dedication and desire to aid those in Haiti as “an extension of their Lasallian education and experiences at Manhattan and they encourage others to make any effort they can to help those in need.”
Saint Michael’s College in Vermont responded to topics addressed in Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’s 2015 Encyclical, by hosting a diocesan eco-justice conference. “The Action for Ecological Justice: Celebrating a Year of Creation” was held on September 20th from 10 AM to 5 PM and included faculty, students and alumni. As part of the Year of Creation, St. Michael’s college co-sponsored the event with the Diocese of Burlington.
The keynote address was given by former CEO and president of Catholic Relief Services, Dr. Carolyn Woo. It addressed “the connections between human action, climate change, environmental degradation, and human suffering” through Dr. Woo’s perspective of working with those most effected by climate change and environmental degradation.
Breakout sessions followed each address and covered a variety of topics found in Laudato Si’, from eco-spirituality to immigration and activism. The day closed with song and praise and included new music from the Diocese, including their new ‘Our Common Home’ collection. This event served as a reminder that we are all called to be global disciples who advocate and care for all of God’s creation.