Avila University is following the call of Pope Francis given in Laudato Si to “care for our common home.” Avila recently implemented a campus-wide recycling initiative that stemmed from a desire to be a campus of change makers. Avila ministry screened the Leonardo DiCaprio documentary “Before the Flood” in 2016, which was followed by a hundred signatures asking for a formal initiative to combat climate change. An Avila sustainability committee was soon formed and they received a grant from the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) to purchase recycling bins and distribute them across campus.
Julie Cowley, assistant director of university ministry, notes that “We will be successful with education on the subject of climate change and what can be done to combat it. Our culture is shifting, and at Avila, it is no different. We want to be an extraordinary and a sustainable university.”
For more information on Avila’s recent initiatives, visit Avila news.
Join Saint Louis University on April 22nd for the Saint Louis Climate Summit! The Saint Louis Climate Summit is dedicated to working to fulfill Pope Francis’ call to unite in defense of our common home. This event is being hosted as part of Saint Louis University’s bicentennial anniversary celebration. The summit will include opening remarks given by Cardinal Peter Turkson in addition to keynote addresses by Bill Nye and Carl Pope.
There will also be a screening of Leonardo DiCaprio’s “Before the Flood” as well as multiple conference sessions. Celebrate Earth Day by attending this conference and becoming informed on issues regarding the state of our environment!
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.
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.
Faculty, staff, and presidents of Catholic institutions of higher education were among the 125 Catholic leaders who have signed a letter of support for the Clean Power Plan, promoted by the Catholic Climate Covenant. The Clean Power Plan is an effort by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce the carbon pollution of existing power plants by 30 percent by 2030. It is the nation’s most ambitious effort to reduce climate-changing greenhouse gas pollution. The letter stresses the Church teaching on the care for creation that is deeply connected to the protection of human life and dignity, especially of the poor and vulnerable. Pope Francis, in Laudato Si’, advocates for the reduction of carbon dioxide and other polluting gases emissions through environmental policy.
Currently, the Clean Power Plan is being challenged by nearly two-dozen states. No matter the legal fate of the policy, signers urge Congress to replace the plan with new policies that reduce carbon emissions in an equal or more ambitious way, joining with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bishops promote policy action on reducing carbon emissions in response to Pope Francis’ call in Laudato Si’.
The letter was delivered on February 16 to the new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, as well as President Trump, top Congressional leaders, and state governors. Read the full letter here.
On their program website, Saint Joseph’s College explains the purpose of the program to communicate “to students the knowledge and skills needed to develop theological and ecological literacy appropriate to the intent and mandate of Laudato Si’, to apprehend the vocation to protect and respect, and to actualize that vocation as they discern it according to their states in life, their professional goals, and their own spiritual journeys as theologically literate Catholics within the dynamics of the New Evangelization.”
The graduate certificate consists of five (5) 3-credit courses: three fully online and two hybrid with a week each on site in Standish, Maine, USA, and Granada, Spain. The program is completed over a 17-month period: April 2017 through September 2018 with a 3-month break January through March 2018.
In honor of the feast of St. Francis,Catholic Climate Covenantis hosting a webinar entitled Brothers in Faith: How the Poor Friar Paved the Way for the Pope of the Poor onWednesday, October 5 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time. The webinar will explore:
The life of St. Francis of Assisi and how he came to be the patron saint of those who promote ecology;
How St. Francis inspired Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si‘;
Presenters include Fr. Michael Lasky, OFM Conv., Chairman of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission, Our Lady of the Angels Province and Paz Artaza-Regan, Program Manager, Catholic Climate Covenant. Register here for the webinar!
For Catholic Relief Services, Pope Francis’s call to ‘Care for Our Common Home’ has become ingrained in their every day work. In the anniversary month of the release of Laudato si’, President and CEO of CRS Dr. Carolyn Woo wrote a reflection on the impacts the encyclical has made around the world. She outlines the various Laudato si’-inspired acts around the world, including the increasing investment of business leaders in environmentally-sound practices, adaptation programs in Ethiopia, and the introduction of ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’ across Africa and Latin America, where the effects of climate change are at their worst.
In addition to the global impacts of the encyclical, Woo shows that the response has been particularly robust in the U.S. as well. Referencing the impact of Laudato si’ in the world of higher education, she writes, “At Catholic Relief Services, our I Am Climate Change campaign has energized students on college campuses across the country, inspiring them to look at their own behaviors and speak out for others, especially by advocating with government leaders.”
Reminding us of the message of the encyclical, she concludes, “God is so generous and bountiful. He has given us a precious gift—our natural world—that will more than take care of our needs. But we must be the stewards of this gift, cherishing and nurturing it, not exploiting it selfishly.”
Food for Thought Friday: Pope Francis’s latest apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia: On Love in the Family, focuses on Church teaching on morality and sexuality; however, as Catholic Ecology writes, Amoris Laetitia and Laudato Si’ are “united by the same truths”, for example, in criticizing the throwaway culture. For an interesting article on the link between Amoris Laetitia and Laudato Si’, read the Catholic Ecology post here!