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!
Spring has almost sprung! With the first day of spring and the celebration of Easter just around the corner, the time for renewal and revival is upon us. As the academic year comes to a close, it’s also a great time to take stock of all the peace and justice initiatives your campus has participated in over the course of the year. But just because the year will soon end, those efforts don’t need to stop. Catholic colleges and universities across the nation are finding interesting ways to maintain momentum and keep their work moving forward.
In Iowa, St. Ambrose University is committed to fostering interest in service and justice on campus. One of its ministries is Ambrose Women for Social Justice, which seeks to identify and assess the ways that injustice affects women and men and devise interdisciplinary solutions that are responsive and sensitive to both genders. The female-led student group was created in recognition of women’s need to be more involved in issues that touch their lives. For 14 years, the group has hosted the Women for Social Justice Conference, an annual lecture series to highlight important social and economic justice issues affecting women and girls. Katy A. Strzepek, director of women and gender studies at St. Ambrose, said much of the conference’s success lies in its Catholic identity by showing how students “can enact Catholic Social Teaching, most particularly by standing in solidarity and asking what they can do to help.” She advised students to remember that “no one is voiceless and to go to the uncomfortable places … to foster fruitful and honest dialogue.”
Last year, the conference focused on how gender affects globalization and what students can do to advocate for better policies. Keynote speaker Catherine Tactaquin, co-founder and executive director of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, discussed the effects of migration by describing how immigrant and refugee women are often forced to leave their families and work abroad to be able to send wages to their families back home.
Saint Louis University is another Catholic institution that values continual engagement with the world and advocating for global change. Students at the Jesuit university attended the 20thIgnatian Family Teach-In for Justice gathering in November, to learn, reflect, pray, network, and advocate for solidarity and social justice issues. Members of the Jesuit body around the country meet annually to be supported by a like-minded community linked by faith and justice. The gathering also gives them an opportunity each year to honor their Jesuit companions who were martyred in El Salvador in 1989. Last fall, the conference focused on pushing students out of their comfort zones to heed the call that Pope Francis described as the “fire, the fervor in action, awakening those who have become dormant.” Students were encouraged to return to campus with a newfound passion to make a difference in the world and not to accept the status quo. They were urged to participate in the next Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill in February by sharing what they had learned with their elected officials and asking for more just policies. To watch speakers and plenaries from the conference, visit the Ignatian Solidarity Network. And be sure to mark your calendars for the 2018 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, which will be held November 3-5, in Washington, DC.
SAnother annual occurrence that helps Catholic colleges keep their fervor going is the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering -Young Leaders Initiative in Washington, DC. In February, students from 24 Catholic colleges and universities attended the gathering, with the theme, “Building Community: A Call to the Common Good,” which stressed the significance of acting in solidarity with our marginalized brothers and sisters at home and abroad.
The four-day youth conference was an “opportunity for U.S. leaders in Catholic social action to network, advocate for social justice, and form emerging leaders in service to the Church and society,” according to the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, which organized the event. Topics ranged from how climate change is affecting those in the Amazon, to the history of racism in the Catholic Church and how to combat it today.
About 500 people participated, with more than 100 college and university students in attendance. The students expressed gratitude for having the opportunity to be empowered to bring change back to their campuses. Senior theology student at CUA Julia VanConas observed, “Having the opportunity to listen and discuss issues with my peers on topics ranging from immigration to environmental justice, gave me space to develop a greater desire to advocate and bring what I learned back to campus.” Catholic colleges and universities are continuously discovering ways to reinvigorate their campus communities with fresh peace and justice initiatives because it spurs action. Students are investing time in conferences that emphasize peer-to-peer collaboration, keeping abreast of topical issues, and obtaining the necessary tools and resources for advocacy so that they return to campus ready to share the knowledge and make a difference. As the academic year comes to an end and spring begins, this rebirth period offers an opportunity for fruitful examination of what you can do on your campus to revive those around you and advance the work of peace and justice for everyone.
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.
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.
Ten Catholic colleges and universities were featured as 2016 Cool Schools in Sierra Magazine. This list measures colleges in their sustainability efforts in energy, investments, co-curricular, food, innovation, academics, planning, purchasing, transport, waste, and water. Colleges reported their programs and initiatives through the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), a program of The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).
Schools included are Loyola University of Chicago (featured in the Top 20 Cool Schools), Aquinas College, Creighton University, Gonzaga University, Loyola Marymount University, Saint Louis University, Santa Clara University, Seattle University, St. John’s University, and Villanova University.
Congratulations to the colleges on their sustainability initiatives!
Wondering how your campus measures up in sustainability and energy conservation? Perhaps your school was one of the eleven Catholic colleges and universities featured in a recent Sierra Clubranking of the top ‘cool schools’!
To determine the rankings, the Sierra Club administered a survey to a wide range of higher education institutions in the U.S. The responding schools were then ranked according to a long list of criteria, including co-curricular activities, energy, investments, innovation, academics, and more:
Depending on their responses to the questionnaire, schools were then given a score in a 1000 point system and ranked accordingly. The eleven Catholic colleges ranked included:
Based on the criteria for the rankings, these eleven schools are officially ‘cool schools’! The Sierra Club reminds us that it is both important to celebrate success but remember that there is more work to be done:
“Our results suggest that while many universities are making admirable progress, no school has yet attained complete sustainability. In 2015, the top-rated university scored 859.75 out of a possible 1,000 points, indicating much work completed but also room for improvement.”
For Catholics, this phrase has been uttered countless times in the midst of prayer. And yet it rarely sparks a lengthy thought process about actual food. For many people, daily bread is a given, the next meal either waiting at home or picked up at a local restaurant or grocery store. But a vast number of others do worry about where their next meal will come from, both globally as well as here in the United States. The Campus Kitchens Project is one organization that is combating this problem on college campuses throughout the country.
Hunger and Catholic Social Teaching
Hunger and food security are issues that are closely tied to Catholic Social Teaching and its grounding principle: the dignity of every human life. As Catholic Relief Services’ campaign, Catholics Confront Global Poverty states, “The right to life for all persons, based on their identity as precious children of God, means that all people have basic rights to those things that are necessary for them to live and thrive, including the right to food.”
While the Church teaches that access to food is a fundamental right for all, statistics show that many families in the United States struggle with hunger. According to the Bread for the World Institute’s 2014 Hunger Report, the most recent data show that in 2012, nearly 50 million people in the United States resided in households that struggled to put adequate food on the table and approximately 50 percent of children living in the United States will live in a household that relies on government assistance for food by the time they are eighteen. It is evident that the right to food is being treated as a privilege in this country, and a privilege from which many are excluded.
Food justice is also intimately related to care for the environment, as it is a form of natural resource that we, as stewards of creation, are called to respect and share with all. Wasting food is just as egregious as wasting other natural resources, such as energy and water. That is why it is staggering to consider how much food is wasted every day while simultaneously one in six Americans don’t know where their next meal will come from. An estimated 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted every year, which costs Americans more than $165 billion annually and accounts for 25 percent of national methane emissions.
The Campus Kitchens Project (CKP) is helping build a connection between food that is wasted and people who do not have enough to eat. The CKP uses kitchen facilities and student volunteers on college and university campuses to accept, store, repackage, and deliver food to community partners that would normally be thrown away. Students participate in every part of the process, from collecting the food to making the meals, and even dining with those who they serve. CKP is currently at 45 campuses around the country, five of which are ACCU members: Gonzaga University, Marquette University, Saint Louis University, Saint Peter’s University, and Walsh University. Merrimack University will be the sixth ACCU member to start a Campus Kitchen with the launch of their project this fall.
On its website, the CKP defines its mission by three goals: “to strengthen bodies by using existing resources to meet hunger and nutritional needs of our community, to empower minds by providing leadership and service learning opportunities to students,… and to build communities by fostering a new generation of community-minded adults.” At Gonzaga University, this mission has proved to be successful. The campus chapter accepts food from several sources, including the Second Harvest Food Bank and on-campus dining halls, to provide nutritious meals for those who lack food security in the Spokane community. The website of the Gonzaga chapter tracks its effectiveness since beginning in 2005: The effort has recovered 98,362 pounds of food, served 92,297 meals, and logged a collective 15,294 hours.
The Campus Kitchens Project and Catholic Colleges and Universities
The goals of Campus Kitchens complement the social justice mission of Catholic colleges and universities. Emily Paulsen, Campus Kitchens’ representative at Gonzaga University, says that “the [university’s] notion of living a life for others fits right in with the work we do.” CKP’s model helps students live out the tenants of Catholic Social Teaching specific to hunger and food security in practical, transformative ways that benefit the students as much as those who receive a meal. Paulson describes how she has seen CKP affect the students who volunteer with the organization: “I have seen the students actually change their majors to degrees in social work because of their participation with the Campus Kitchen. We run a community dinner every Thursday night in downtown Spokane…The impact of students engaging with clients at the dinner is huge.”
Campus Kitchens’ congruence with the Catholic mission was an important factor to the Merrimack College students who brought the project to their campus, as well. Amy Byrne, one of the students instrumental in the process, describes how Campus Kitchens relates to her school’s Catholic identity: “The Catholic identity at Merrimack is focused on engaging our community through acts of compassion and education. Our Campus Kitchen is a natural extension of our values because it connects so many different partners in our community, and it addresses a number of social justice issues along the way.”
For the Merrimack College students involved in bringing CKP to their campus, the national office offered many resources that eased the process. One example is the $5,000 grant they received after winning an online contest offered by Campus Kitchens. These grants are offered several times throughout the year to help eliminate financial barriers that may arise in starting a school chapter. The Campus Kitchens Project also provides a Campus Kitchens Planner, an online tool that walks users step by step through the process and makes it easy to ask CKP staff for additional guidance. Byrne described how helpful the staff at CKP was, saying, “The head staff of the Campus Kitchens Project organization is so supportive and resourceful. They will do whatever they can to help you overcome obstacles along the way.”
The Campus Kitchens Project is one way of promoting the mission of Catholic higher education. It combats the issue of hunger through environmentally sustainable practices while inspiring leadership and solidarity in students. As Pope Francis said in his homily at the opening Mass of the Caritas Internationalis General Assembly in Rome on May 12, “We ought to set the table for all, and ask that there be a table for all.” The Campus Kitchens Project helps colleges and universities set the table for all in a sustainable, empowering way.
Catherine Coffey is a senior at Boston College and was a Peace and Justice Intern at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in summer 2015.
Want to start a Campus Kitchen Project chapter at your college or university? Not sure where to begin? Be sure to catch one of the remaining Fall 2015 information sessions in November and December! More information about how to start a Campus Kitchens chapter at your school, including grant opportunities, can be found on the website, campuskitchens.org.