Join Catholic Climate Covenant for a webinar to explore international security issues and climate change on Thursday, June 22 at 2 p.m. Eastern time. Key questions that will be addressed include:
How are food and water scarcity, extreme weather events, poverty, political instability, and social tensions, exacerbated by climate change, particularly upon the most vulnerable peoples around the world?
How do these impacts affect international security?
How is the Catholic Church seeking to address them?
Catholic college and university presidents have signed an open letter to the international community noting that they will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris agreement. The letter has been signed by leaders from state and local governments, higher education, and businesses. As of June 13, 20 Catholic higher education leaders had signed the letter.
The statement notes: “It is imperative that the world know that in the U.S., the actors that will provide the leadership necessary to meet our Paris commitment are found in city halls, state capitals, colleges and universities, investors and businesses. Together, we will remain actively engaged with the international community as part of the global effort to hold warming to well below 2℃ and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy that will benefit our security, prosperity, and health.”
University of Dayton President Eric Spina is one of the Catholic higher education presidents who signed the statement, noting the connection to Catholic teaching on the environment. “We share the goals of the Paris Agreement to fight climate change with science, innovation and leadership,” Spina said. “Furthermore, in alignment with Pope Francis and our Catholic, Marianist commitment to the common good, we recognize that environmental stewardship is a social justice issue, and that failure to act on climate change disproportionately affects the poor and disadvantaged throughout the world.”
Read more about the statement, including how to sign, here.
Today, June 8, is World Oceans Day, founded in 2002 to celebrate, honor, help protect and conserve the oceans. Events in honor of World Oceans Day will occur across the globe. For some, this holiday prompts reflection on the issues related to oceans, such as sustainability and human trafficking practices in the seafood industry.
Over the past two years, the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking has coordinated advocacy efforts to encourage seafood companies to eradicate human trafficking practices. In 2016, the Coalition sponsored a postcard campaign, while in 2017 they focused on encouraging seafood companies who are cleaning up their supply chains to label their products. Read more about this year’s project on their website.
In honor of World Oceans Day, Fair Trade USA has launched a campaign encouraging consumers to purchase seafood that is produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way. Launched in 2014, their certification of seafood products allows consumers to make purchases that have been shown to meet rigorous standards for workers in the fishing industry. Learn more about their work on their website.
How will your campus celebrate and reflect on World Oceans Day? Let us know!
Inspired by their mission, Catholic colleges and universities serve their local communities in many ways, including building partnerships to work for the common good. Since 2010, ACCU member institutions have partnered with community organizations funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) to collaborate on initiatives that help people in their local communities who are living in poverty. These organizations are dedicated to empowering people to create change in their local community through solidarity and education. Saint Joseph’s University, the University of Dallas, and Marquette University are just a few of the institutions addressing local issues of poverty through these partnerships, providing a concrete way for students to live out the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.
At Saint Joseph’s University, students have the opportunity to work with Urban Tree Connection, a non-profit organization funded by CCHD that works with people living in Philadelphia’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods to develop community-based greening and gardening projects. Urban Tree Connection (UTC) empowers members of the local community by training people in farming and other agricultural skills and making fresh produce more widely available. Their projects are created on vacant land to create safe and functional spaces that promote positive human interactions. Saint Joseph’s University’s Sustainability Committee and Institute for Environmental Stewardship work with UTC to provide access to the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at UTC to faculty, staff, administrators, and students at the university. Subscribers to the CSA receive vegetables from UTC’s urban farms, supporting their efforts to transform abandoned lots into community gardens.
In addition to promoting the CSA program, students at SJU are also encouraged to work with UTC in their community gardens through the Philadelphia Service Immersion Program and the Magis Program. The Philadelphia Service Immersion Program is an optional early move-in experience for first-year students. This four-day program introduces incoming freshmen to the Jesuit values of social justice, service to those on the margin, moral discernment, and intellectual inquiry through community service learning. This past fall, six students volunteered with UTC through the program. Each evening, the students reflected on what they learned and experienced that day in a small group discussion led by incoming sophomores. Another opportunity available to connect students to UTC is the Magis Program, a semester-long service and social justice program for first-year students. Students meet weekly in small groups for community service, social justice education, and reflection. UTC is one of the sites where students can serve for the semester as part of the Magis Program.
Like St. Joseph’s, other Catholic campuses are finding that partnerships with CCHD-funded groups provide mutual benefits for all the partners. For example, the University of Dallas partnered with the local diocesan CCHD staff to educate students about the reality of poverty in the United States. Working with students and staff, together they created the Journey to Justice Retreat (J2J) to teach students about the issue of poverty in the local area and throughout the country. Using resources from CCHD such as Poverty USA, participants learned about the effects of poverty on people all over the country.
The J2J Retreat featured a focus on the CCHD-funded group Texas Tenant Union (TTU). TTU is a community organizing group dedicated to securing more and higher quality low-income housing by advocating for legislation, providing free legal counsel for low-income tenants, and offering rights education and counseling for tenants. Former diocesan CCHD intern Colleen McInerney, an alumna of the University of Dallas, says the retreat showed students the importance of CCHD in that TTU “wouldn’t have been able to do nearly as much without the CCHD resources” available to it, which inspired many students to get involved with anti-poverty organizations. The retreat was well-received and students hope that the university will be able to host the retreat again in the future.
In addition to hosting service opportunities and working together on educational programming, Catholic colleges and universities can partner with CCHD-funded organizations to learn more about advocacy within the nation’s political system. Marquette University offers students a way to become involved in advocacy through courses that incorporate service learning and through an internship. Project Return assists men and women who have experienced incarceration in making a positive reentry to the community. Each academic year, students work at Project Return for ten hours a week , helping clients find jobs and housing, work through personal issues, and celebrate accomplishments. They learn about the process of reentry by visiting a prison, meeting parole officers, and witnessing a reentry court run by a federal judge. In addition to learning more about the issue, students most recently advocated with community leaders, canvassed neighborhoods on issues surrounding criminal justice reform, and organized a community mental health day.
The project also enables Marquette student interns to work with a mentor on a variety of tasks and to incorporate their own academic interests into the internship. One student intern during the past year worked to launch a mental health initiative to accommodate clients in need of psychological services. Ed de St. Aubin, Ph.D., the director of the internship program, commented, “The social justice mission of our Jesuit university is completely aligned with the mission of Project Return.” De St. Aubin noticed how the experience opened students up to more growth than a classroom could have afforded, exposing them to numerous human factors connected to criminal justice reform, such as race relations, ethnic disparities, and faith development. Recently, de St. Aubin, as well as interns Max Hughes-Zahner and Alex Krouth, were guests on RiverWest Radio Milwaukee’s show, Expo: Ex-Prisoners Organizing. Hughes-Zahner, a junior at Marquette, noted on the show that this internship “was very important for me to experience it from that side because previous to that I had really only experienced classroom learning about incarceration and prison.”
Saint Joseph’s University, the University of Dallas, and Marquette University are working with local organizations to create community-based solutions to issues of poverty and inequality. Their partnerships with CCHD-funded groups enable them to live the values of Catholic Social Teaching and have a visible effect on the surrounding neighborhoods. Students are able to work alongside those living the issues they are working to resolve, giving them an experience of solidarity. Through a partnership with an organization funded by CCHD, Catholic universities make a difference in their communities and give students experience in what it means to have a faith that does justice.
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.
The Chaplains for Earth initiative is a collaboration of Deans and Directors of college and university religious and spiritual life departments in the United States. They are working to gather signatures on an open letter to President Trump, Secretary of State Tillerson, and EPA Administrator Pruitt calling them to honor U.S. commitments made at the 2015 United Nations Climate Conference in Paris. The goal for the letter is to have signatures representing all 50 states by April 22. The letter will be released in time for Earth Day.
The letter quotes the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions Interfaith Call to Action on Climate Change: “The damaging impacts of climate change are already extensive…If human behavior does not change, these impacts will become far more extreme, resulting in turmoil and suffering on an enormous scale with immense harm to both humans and other forms of life. People affected are, and will be, disproportionately the poor, marginalized, and vulnerable, including women and children—those who have done least to create this crisis. This is a massive injustice.”
Join us for the fourth live event in the WeAreSaltAndLight.org series on Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at noon EST. The 30-minute event, which is co-sponsored by the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, will focus on how college and university communities learn about and respond to the Church’s social mission.
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!