Catholic Colleges Heed Pope’s Call to Protect the Earth

On Sunday, we celebrate the 48th anniversary of Earth Day! Since the release of Pope Francis’ second encyclical, Laudato Si, Catholics have been called in a unique way to respond to the “the throwaway culture” and “care for our common home.” Earth Day offers Catholics a time to reflect on the beauty of creation and our role as stewards of creation. The Holy Father urgently appeals to “every living person” to protect one another and the planet. To heed the call, Catholic colleges and universities have been integrating sustainable practices on campuses in small and large ways that both honor the earth and affirm the values of their institutions.

St. Mary's

Many universities have incorporated humanity’s call to protect the environment into their mission statements to facilitate the work throughout their campuses. One example can be found at Saint Mary’s College of California. Its mission statement reads, “In fidelity to our educational missions and Catholic principles, Saint Mary’s College is committed to leadership in fostering environmental literacy, modeling a culture of sustainability, and creating an equitable future for all of humankind in harmony with nature.” Having a clear, yet comprehensive mission statement has allowed the campus to make large strides in a short amount of time. In a 2017 Sustainability Report, St. Mary’s stipulated that in order to achieve its objectives, the campus community must be engaged at all levels, take advantage of intellectual resources, have transparent evaluation and planning processes, and ensure that each measure taken is related to its stated goals. Last year, the college was able to do just that. Developments include the addition of mobile solar generators, updated lighting and natural gas systems, and installation of compost bins across campus.

By far, the largest impact came from the compost bins. According to the report, “Landfill [waste] decreased from 655 to 439 tons in the past two years.” St. Mary’s said it was able to make the drastic change through concerted efforts to educate the community on what goes into each recycle bin and provide the right infrastructure and signage within campus grounds. “With those in place, a culture can build.”

Since the inception of its sustainability committee in 2010, John Carroll University has implemented a number of initiatives throughout campus as outlined in its report last year. One of the ways was by integrating “green” measures in campus cafeterias. Changes in its food service facilities began in 2008, with the decision to go tray-less in the Schott Dining Hall. This has reduced food waste and minimized the water and energy that would have been used for tray cleaning. Also, when students want to take food out from the cafeterias, they are given reusable, biodegradable containers rather than foam ones that would eventually occupy a landfill.

Much of John Carroll’s success can be attributed to ongoing collaboration with the Office of Residence Life. The student housing department recently added new wireless thermostats and laundry machines to its residential buildings to improve energy efficiency and reduce water use. In addition, Residence Life regularly hosts informational events to better educate students on sustainability practices.

Xavier

Xavier University is incorporating academics as part of its sustainability initiatives. The university is offering undergraduate degree programs in sustainability, including economics and management; economics, sustainability, and society; and land, farming, and community. Xavier notes that “each of these three academic majors provide experiential learning opportunities combined with a year-long capstone project, encompassing everything students have learned over the past four years.” The programs present additional opportunities for students “to care for our common home.”

Currently, senior Economics, Sustainability, and Society (ECOS) majors are preparing for their capstone projects, which they will present at the end of April. Throughout their four years at Xavier, the students have “acquired a comprehensive understanding of sustainable economies, including the study of natural resources, plus ecological and environmental problems. Students also gain an understanding of social justice questions related to the distribution of economic products and resources,” according to the university website. The program allows them to carry their studies beyond the classroom. For example, one senior ECOS capstone project focuses on improving the environmental profile of Xavier University by changing campus behaviors and attitudes. As a Jesuit institution, Xavier is committed to fostering students that are stewards of a healthier earth.

Catholic colleges and universities continue to respond to the call of Pope Francis in Laudato Si by implementing sound sustainability practices. These colleges and universities recognize the importance of seeking full campus participation to be most effective in their missions. And, as we mark Earth Day, let’s take time to reflect on the lifestyle changes we can make for a more just and sustainable world.

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Catholic Colleges Host Events in Solidarity with Immigrants

Twelve Catholic colleges and universities hosted events in solidarity with immigrant brothers and sisters on January 19, as a part of the Ignatian Solidarity Network‘s call to prayer, Prayers of Light.

Saint Peter’s University hosted a prayer service featuring a student choir and students sharing their experience of being undocumented. The service ended with an opportunity to contact Congress on behalf of humane immigration policies.

Students at Loyola University Maryland held a walking candlelight vigil during the busy lunch hour at the campus student center.

Other colleges and universities that held events for the day of prayer include: Fairfield University, Xavier University, John Carroll University, Canisius College, Loyola University of Chicago, Marquette University, Saint Louis University, Gonzaga University, University of San Francisco, and Spring Hill College.

The purpose of the call to prayer was to illuminate, through solidarity and action, the dignity of our immigrant brothers and sisters, and the value of each person’s contribution to our country.  To see prayers and resources related to the event, visit the Ignatian Solidarity Network website.

How are you practicing solidarity on your campus? Share your story with us! Email Lexie Bradley.

Academic Year in Review: Fair Trade Firsts

Recently, the Fair Trade Campaigns has released a summary reflecting on the achievements, challenges, and milestones of the past academic year. Listed below are three of the four new Fair Trade Colleges and Universities, which are also ACCU members:

The Fair Trade Campaigns also sent out an end-of-year survey to find out what Fair Trade champions accomplished on campuses across the country this past year. Listed below are some of the interesting statistics:

  • 83% of Campaigns hosted at least 2 Fair Trade events (1/3 of campaigns hosted at least 4!)
  • 435 Fair Trade advocates joined the movement this last year; that’s an average of 10 new advocates per campaign!
  • 85% of Campaigns participated in National Programs including Back-to-School, Fair Trade Month, Valentines Day and World Fair Trade Day.

For Catholic colleges and universities, fair trade presents an opportunity to respond to the urgent call to promote social justice, the dignity of work, and the wider sharing of resources and development. The Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities has created Fair Trade and Catholic Higher Education, highlighting how ACCU member institutions engage with the fair trade movement.

See more Fair Trade Firsts in the Campaigns Academic Year in Review!

Laudato Si Release: Act

Earlier today, Pope Francis released his long-awaited encyclical letter, Laudato Si.  We at ACCU are sharing resources and best practices to help our campuses pray for commitment to care for creation, learn about the encyclical and our call to stewardship, and act upon our beliefs to work for the common good.

˜ACT˜

ACCU member institutions have acted upon their call to care for creation through a number of sustainability and environmental justice initiatives.

  • The Catholic Climate Covenant, with support from the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities, and the Catholic Campus Ministry Association, have produced Sustainability and Catholic Higher Education: A Toolkit for Mission Integration (PDF; 3MB).  Through mission-based initiatives, the Toolkit offers practical suggestions to inspire individuals, families, schools, parishes, and dioceses to follow the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change’s St. Francis Pledge.
  • 29 Catholic colleges and universities have taken the St. Francis Pledge, sponsored by the Catholic Climate Covenant, committing to living out the value of care for creation through reflection, action, and advocacy.  These campuses include: Aquinas College (MI), Cabrini College, Chestnut Hill College, College of Saint Benedict, Creighton University, Gonzaga University, John Carroll University, Lewis University, Loyola University Chicago, Marquette University, Mercyhurst University, Mount St. Joseph University, Neumann University, Rosemont College, Saint Anselm College, Saint Francis University, Saint John’s University (MN), Saint Joseph’s College (IN), Saint Mary’s College of California, Saint Michael’s College, Salve Regina University, Seattle University, St. Thomas More College, Stonehill College, University of Notre Dame, University of Portland, Villanova University, Viterbo University, and Xavier University.
  • The Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability at Seattle University lives out a core tenet of the university mission.  The Center has undertaken a number of initiatives, including supporting faculty and student research through fellowships.  Dr. Trileigh Tucker, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at Seattle University, and one of CEJS’s first Faculty Fellows, developed a teaching resource on environmental justice, compiling syllabi, assessment methods, and foundational documents used frequently in courses on environmental justice.
  • Benedictine University in Illinois has received a $46,000 Food Scrap Composting Revitalization and Advancement Program (F-SCRAP) grant from the state to allow for the diversion of food scraps generated in the campus cafeteria and other buildings.
  • In spring 2015, Cabrini College held a conference, “Faith, Climate, and Health”, to examine how climate change affects the health of the most vulnerable citizens.
  • At the University of Portland, professors Dr. Russell Butkus and Dr. Steven Kolmes, teach a course entitled “Theology in Ecological Perspective”, exploring Catholic and Christian teaching and environmental science.

Read more ways ACCU member campuses have undertaken sustainability initiatives on the ACCU website.  Check back frequently as we will post new updates and ways that ACCU campuses react to the Laudato Si to the blog!

Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice – happening now!

The Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, an annual gathering of Jesuit schools, began in Washington, DC over the weekend and continues today with advocacy sessions on Capitol Hill. Foremost in participants’ minds is the 25th anniversary of the death of six Jesuit priests and two lay women, who were killed in El Salvador during their civil war. The Teach-In hopes to educate tomorrow’s leaders on their role in the world and their Catholic call to fight the many forms of injustice.

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