Catholic Climate Covenant Webinar: “Just Transition”

Join Catholic Climate Covenant on Thursday, March 23 for their next webinar:

Just Transition: Shrinking our Carbon Footprint While Leaving No One Behind
2:00-3:00 p.m. (Eastern time)

Presenters: Dr. Erin Lothes Biviano, Assistant Professor of Theology at the College of Saint Elizabeth, New Jersey; and Dr. Jessica Wrobleski, Assistant Professor of Theology & Religious Studies at Wheeling Jesuit University, West Virginia.


The webinar will focus on:

1) How poor and vulnerable communities bear the biggest burden of the impacts and consequences of climate change and how these same communities bear the biggest burden of the primary cause of climate change–fossil fuel extraction, transportation and combustion.

2) How we address the challenges of the transition to a clean energy economy and the rebuilding of communities left behind as we move away from a fossil-fuels based economy.

3) What Catholic Social Teaching has to say about a just transition to a clean energy economy and the communities impacted by the transition. Special focus will be given to Appalachia and how the decline of the coal economy has devastated an already forgotten region.

An Interview with Global Sisters Report Editor Gail DeGeorge

Gail DeGeorge is the editor of Global Sisters Report, a project of National Catholic Reporter. Given the publication’s commitment to Catholic social teaching and the close ties between higher education and Catholic sisters, ACCU hosted an interview with Gail DeGeorge on the connection between ACCU member institutions and Global Sisters Report.

ACCU: Tell us about Global Sisters Report.  How did the project get started and what are the goals of the publication?

Gail DeGeorge: Global Sisters Report is a website publication of the National Catholic Reporter that reports on and gives voice to women religious who carry out the Catholic Church’s mission of mercy and social justice. Its network of journalists writes about sisters around the world who work against human trafficking, run workshops to help empower women, aid indigenous people against environmental threats posed by mining (including being witnesses at Standing Rock against the pipeline); run clinics in poor communities, and lobby in the halls of Congress and the United Nations for the rights of the marginalized and forgotten. Sisters also write columns for GSR about spirituality; religious life in the U.S., Africa, and Asia; and their missions and ministries. In addition to editors and reporters, GSR has two sisters on staff who work to encourage and develop columns by sisters, edit, and write commentary. NCR had written about the work of women religious since its founding in 1964 and wanted to expand on that coverage. In late 2008, it approached the Hilton Foundation for funding for a special three-year project entitled “Women Religious: Lives of Justice and Mercy.” NCR then received a planning grant in 2011 to research the formation of a dedicated website focused on women religious. The project was funded, developed and then launched in April 2014.

ACCU: Many Catholic college and universities were founded by sisters and continue to have sisters actively involved with campus leadership. In what ways do religious sisters impart the values of their order and of their colleges into the social justice work that they do?

GDG: For decades, America’s sisters, with foresight, determination, and creativity have been building a foundation that will sustain the charism of their order when they are no longer at the helm. These initiatives include developing mission chairs/officers, lay leadership and associate programs, retreats, book study groups that reinforce the values of the order, and even, at Neumann University in Aston, Pennsylvania, periodic afternoon teas, bringing staff and faculty together to assess how the Catholic Franciscan mission is being integrated into campus life. One example: Minnesota’s St. Catherine University has created three mission chairs to reinforce each element of the school values: Catholic, Women, and Liberal Arts. In initiating a new governance structure, they wrote a new covenant, developing an educational program for the Board of Trustees and creating a Sponsorship Council made up of four sisters and three lay trustees.

ACCU: What are some of the ways you have seen sisters engage the next generation, such as college students, in their social justice ministry?

GDG: When the mission of the order is woven into the institutional fabric, students notice and participate.  At St. Catherine, sisters have volunteered to become prayer partners with students, who also have the opportunity to work on social justice issues like human trafficking and participate in Celeste’s Dream, a program that allows young adults to experience the mission and spirituality of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Chestnut Hill College has the 1650 Society (a mission-focused honor society). The school also offers service trips to Appalachia and Tanzania as well as the chance to work with the inner-city poor in Camden, New Jersey.  At Immaculata University in Immaculata, Pennsylvania, home of the IHM Sisters, students tutor children in West Philadelphia, work at a local food bank and spend time with retired sisters next door at Camilla Hall, among other opportunities.

ACCU: How can faculty in Catholic higher education, especially those involved with peace and justice work, engage with Global Sisters Report? 

GDG: Check out the Global Sisters Report website, encourage students to do so, and sign up for e-mail alerts!  The website is clearly designed for various social justice themes – environment, trafficking, migration – and the search tool allows for more in-depth searches. Also, join in the discussions on Global Sisters Reports’ social media pages on Facebook, Twitter (@sistersreport), and Instagram.  We also have a feature “Notes from the Field” in which young adult volunteers – usually through Catholic Volunteer Network but also those who intern or work with sister congregations – write blogs. These are excellent examples of young people living out the Church’s social justice and service mission.

ACCU: In what ways can the news and stories shared by Global Sisters Report inform the way that Catholic colleges and universities, including students, campus ministers, mission officers, and administrators, work to promote Catholic social teaching principles?

 GDG: Sisters are on the front lines on a variety of social justice issues. They serve people who are affected by government policy decisions, funding cuts, and environmental crises. Their autonomy often allows them to be more outspoken than priests and other clergy in advocating for social change. Many, for instance, actively incorporate Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si, into their work. Sisters in Africa are seeking common ground between their missions with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Their voice is vital to include in discussions about — and efforts to carry out — Catholic social teaching principles.

Living Our Values: Colleges Promote Fair Trade

As institutions inspired by faith, Catholic colleges and universities live their values in many ways, including through academic pursuits, business decisions, and student activities. One way Catholic colleges and universities reflect their mission to care for the poor and vulnerable throughout the world by protecting the rights of workers, upholding ethical economic practices and supporting sustainable environmental practices is through fair trade.

Fair trade is a designation placed on products to ensure that producers are paid a fair price for what they create by examining factors like price, labor conditions, sustainability, and community development. Carroll College and St. Norbert College are two examples of Catholic institutions that have successfully implemented different strategies to raise awareness for fair trade products and practices in creative ways.

Carroll College has promoted fair trade through academic courses, student life, and the Hunthausen Center for Peace and Justice. Fair trade principles and practices were introduced in the class “Theological Foundations,” part of Carroll’s core curriculum, as a case study during a unit on Catholic Social Teaching. Another course, “Market Research,” also examined the issue of fair trade through a research project on fair trade awareness in the community and on campus. Using research from this project, students from the Enactus student club, which focuses on developing business skills, designed a pocket-sized brochure on fair trade and Catholic Social Teaching, which also listed businesses in Helena selling fair trade products. More than 4,000 copies of the brochure were distributed across the Carroll and Helena communities. The student life department, with the Hunthausen Center, also sponsored a public fair trade market in the campus center where fair trade products were made available for purchase. Additionally, three “Fair Trade Friday” events featuring free samples of fair trade products and information on fair trade practices were held in the campus center, promoting greater awareness of the issue. These fair trade–focused projects were funded through the Global Solidarity Grant program, a collaborative program of ACCU and Catholic Relief Services that awards funding to Catholic colleges and universities to increase awareness of global injustice and expand student involvement in bringing about change. After signing a fair trade resolution, Carroll College became a Fair Trade certified university in 2016, the first university in Montana to be certified as such.

Another Global Solidarity Grant recipient, St. Norbert College, incorporated art into the discussion of fair trade. On exhibition in the Baer Gallery of the Bush Art Center was photographer Lisa Kristine’s work “Enslaved: A Visual Story of Modern Day Slavery.” St. Norbert hosted a reception with Catholic Relief Services called “Shine a Light” that used the powerful images on display to present a testimony of the need for change in the area of fair and ethical trade. Featured speaker Caroline Brennan, Senior Communications Officer at Catholic Relief Services, discussed the effects of fair trade programs around the world and how attendees could become involved. She also shared her own story and photographs as a member of the CRS emergency response team to an audience of faculty, students, and members of the local community. At the end of the reception, hundreds of postcards in support of the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act were signed by visitors to the exhibit and reception attendees and given to representatives of Catholic Relief Services to send to Congressional representatives.

St. Norbert College students also run a fair trade business called Discoveries International. Run by international business students, Discoveries International sells fair trade items, such as jewelry, coffee, and tea, donating the profits to charities chosen by the group. For the 2016-2017 academic year, Discoveries International is donating to Feed My Starving Children, The Zambia Project, and Doctors without Borders. This business incorporates support for ethical markets with the teaching of management skills to students who are going to be involved in the international market.

Bring Fair Trade to Your Campus

Colleges and universities can connect with Catholic Relief Services Ethical Trade to help promote fair trade principles on their campus. CRS Ethical Trade provides academic resources that include various modules related specifically to incorporating fair trade and labor issues in the curriculum. In addition, they provide campus engagement materials, ranging from prayers to event ideas, that can help raise awareness on the issue of fair labor practices in the campus community. From their experience working with many campuses on promoting fair trade, CRS Ethical Trade tells success stories of Catholic colleges and universities that used the CRS Student Ambassador program to incorporate educational and faith formation resources into campus life while faculty offer academic modules in courses. In addition to these online resources, CRS staff members are available to present on ethical trade and its importance to the campus community.

Many Catholic universities also work with Fair Trade Campaigns to become a fair trade–certified university through their multi-step process. To start, a campus creates a team to support fair trade, who then reaches out to campus outlets to ensure a minimum of two fair trade products are available in campus-owned and -operated venues. The team works to grow the movement, using fair trade products at university meetings, events, and in university offices, and planning fair trade educational events or celebratory activities. The final step to certification is for the college or university to develop and pass a fair trade resolution. Fair Trade Campaigns has a toolkit available for ideas on how to meet these goals. As of February 2017, 21 Catholic colleges and universities are certified as fair trade institutions. ACCU provides more information on how to become a fair trade university, why Catholic institutions value fair trade, and additional creative ways to incorporate fair trade on campus on its Fair Trade webpage, where visitors can also download the Fair Trade and Catholic Higher Education brochure.

A rising number of Catholic colleges and universities are using their purchasing power as a way of expressing their Catholic mission by supporting the rights of workers to a fair wage and safe working conditions through fair trade items. Carroll College and St. Norbert College are engaging the issue of justice for workers, global solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, and care for creation through a variety of programs and awareness campaigns. By bringing together students through business practices, academic courses, and cultural events, these colleges are showing how fair trade practices in the daily workings of an institution can make a global impact.

Camilla MacKenzie is an undergraduate student at The Catholic University of America and the Peace and Justice Intern at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

Lenten Resources for Peace and Justice

As Ash Wednesday approaches, consider using some of these resources related to peace and justice for reflection during the season of Lent.


Webinar: Building Interfaith Infrastructure

Interfaith Youth Core is hosting a webinar entitled “Stepping onto your Soapbox: Exploring Interfaith Connections to Campus Mission, Vision, and Values” on February 21 at 1:00 PM EST. This webinar is part of a three-part spring series designed for campus professionals and college/university educators who are interested in making a stronger case for interfaith cooperation as a campus-wide priority.

While the webinars have been designed these to build upon one another, you may sign up for as many or as few as your schedule allows. The following two webinars in the series are Finding Your People: Expanding Buy-in for Interfaith Initiatives on March 21 and Planning for the Next Year: Exploring Strategies for 2017-2018 Interfaith Initiatives  on April 27.


Video Conference: Supporting Undocumented Students in a New Political Landscape

Join Ignatian Solidarity Network on Thursday, February 16 at 3 PM EST for an online conversation with Jesuit college and university faculty and administrators on how to support students who are undocumented. A new political landscape in the U.S. has brought with it unique realities for people in the without documentation, including students at Jesuit colleges and universities. How are faculty and administrators responding to the changing reality facing these students?

Panelists include:

Jennifer Ayala, Ph.D.
Director of The Center for Undocumented Students
Saint Peter’s University

Anna J. Brown
Chair, Department of Political Science
Saint Peter’s University

Kevin Mahaney
Associate Director of Student Financial Services
Georgetown University

Arelis Palacios
Undocumented Students Advisor, Division of Student Affairs
Georgetown University

Joe Saucedo
Director, Department of Student Diversity & Multicultural Affairs
Loyola University Chicago

To learn more or to register, visit the Ignatian Solidarity Network website.