April 22, 2016 — Today is Earth Day, and Jesuit high schools, universities, parishes and ministries are living the call to action put forth by Laudato Si’, the papal encyclical about caring for the Earth that Pope Francis released last year.
The encyclical was groundbreaking as it was the first time top-level papal teaching was exclusively devoted to ecology. The document asserts that fighting climate change is a moral imperative, since it most heavily impacts the world’s poor.
“Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us,” Pope Francis wrote in the opening words of his letter, addressed to "every person living on this planet." Since the pope is St. Francis’ namesake, these words carry extra significance.
One year later, the call to action has been enthusiastically welcomed across the Jesuit network. (We’ll also be sharing more stories like these on our Facebook and Twitter pages with the hashtag #LivingLaudatoSi until the anniversary of the encyclical on May 24.)
Santa Clara University in California and Loyola University Chicago held conferences on climate change. Santa Clara officially dedicated 2015-2016 to reflecting on Laudato Si’, forming interdisciplinary faculty reading groups for the encyclical and presenting students with the opportunity to sign the SCU Graduation Pledge, in which they promise to consider the social and economic impacts of their jobs post-graduation and to help improve their companies’ green policies.
The University of Scranton in Pennsylvania is hosting an entire week of Earth Day events, including an Environmental Bike Tour, a Spring Sustainability Symposium and an Earth Day Fair.
Students attend Loyola University Chicago’s climate change conference. (Photo by Mark Beane)
Loyola University Chicago operates the Institute of Environmental Sustainability and Seattle University supports its Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability, which both opened in 2013. Seattle University’s Sustainable Student Action club hosted open mic performances, an art show and a solutions fair for Earth Day 2016.
Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, has offered a degree program in environmental science for more than 20 years, one of the first Catholic universities to do so. The school recently added a degree program in sustainability and also prioritizes campus sustainability efforts.
Seattle Preparatory School holds an annual Earth Day of Service, where over 700 students, staff and faculty head to local parks to work with environmental groups to help remove invasive species, restore habitat and beautify local natural treasures.
Canadian Jesuit Father John McCarthy, who recently had a newly discovered species of lichen named after him, doing field research in a forest in Newfoundland.
This month, the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States has also welcomed Cecilia Calvo as a Senior Advisor on Environmental Justice, a new position.
Have any of these Jesuit-affiliated endeavors inspired you to take your own action in caring for our environment? Share it with us on social media with the hashtag #LivingLaudatoSi before the one-year anniversary of the encyclical on May 24. Check out these climate action suggestion lists from Catholic Relief Services and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for ideas.
Moreover, keep up with EcoJesuit, the online web portal about Jesuits and their work in ecology, created by the Jesuit European Social Centre and the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific; read more articles about Laudato Si’ at Jesuit-run America magazine; and read the entire text of Laudato Si’. [Source: Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities]