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From carbon challenges to community gardens, living and taking action on Laudato si’

30 June 2016
Photo credit: Ignatian Solidarity Network

Photo credit: Ignatian Solidarity Network

The Ignatian Solidarity Network and the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States worked collaboratively to create a listing of how Jesuit ministries responded to Laudato si’ since its release last year.  Jesuit institutions are taking stock of their response to the pope’s rallying cry to care for our common home and every higher education institution in the US is included along with many secondary schools, parishes, and social ministries.

From carbon emission challenges to organic farms and sustainable practices, to environmental courses and an online environmental textbook, to prayer services and reflections that incorporate Ignatian spirituality, Jesuit parishes, schools, universities and social ministries are living Laudato si’ while recognizing there’s much more to do.  The following are some examples of how Jesuit institutions have responded to the challenge.

Jesuit universities and Laudato si’

All 28 Jesuit universities in the US have embraced Laudato si’ and are integrating themes of sustainability, ecology and social justice into their dialogue, practices, course offerings and curriculum.

Ecology and justice conversations, divestment, sustainable building design

Loyola University Chicago held a symposium  “Caring for Our Common Home: Conversations on Ecology and Justice.”  Just weeks after the release of the pope’s encyclical, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. announced  it would not make or continue any direct investments of endowment funds in companies whose principal business is mining coal for use in energy production.  Last fall, Xavier University in Cincinnati won the 2015 “Learning By Design” Magazine award  for integrating sustainability into the design and renovation of its main classroom building, Altar Hall.  Xavier University is also identifying ways to integrate ecology into its curriculum and offered a course on Sustainable and Resilient Communities at the intersection of social justice and environmental stewardship.

Ignatian Carbon Challenge

Created by a team of theology and science teachers at Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine, the Ignatian Carbon Challenge  invites both individuals and institutions to address climate change and environmental justice through a series of monthly challenges.  The online program is run by the Ignatian Solidarity Network, which works to educate and form advocates for social justice animated by the spirituality of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and the witness of the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador and their companions.

Prayer and discussion at Jesuit parishes

Many of the 62 Jesuit parishes in the US responded to the encyclical by holding prayer services and hosting discussions on the implications of Laudato si’.  For example, Saint Ignatius Loyola Parish and School in Sacramento, California, hosted an educational series on the encyclical and on 1 September, the World Day of Prayer for Creation, held a schoolwide prayer service.

Free online environmental science textbook

In January, Healing Earth, a free online environmental textbook created by the International Jesuit Ecology Project (IJEP) was launched for higher education and secondary schools around the world.  This online textbook addresses the major ecological challenges of our time, including climate change, from an integrated scientific, spiritual, and ethical perspective.

Ignatian spirituality meets organic farming

In Guelph, Ontario, Canada, the Ignatius Jesuit Centre  encompasses 600 acres of farmland, wetland and woodland.  The Centre offers Ignatian spirituality retreats and programs for people seeking to connect their lives with God and all creation, while Ignatius Farm is a model for organic and community-shared agriculture, and the mentoring of organic growers.  And at the Ignatius Old-Growth Forest, 100 acres are being restored, offering a beautiful place for people of all ages to connect with the natural world.

Community and communion, healing the land and life

Right outside Montreal at La Ferme Berthe Rousseau, an associate work of the Jesuits’ French Canadian Province, people facing personal challenges in their lives are welcomed.  Through community life on the farm and communion with the land – living with residents and visitors, taking care of the animals, harvesting the vegetables – residents can begin to heal.

“We are just beginning to see the impacts of the encyclical, which is not about short-term change or easy fixes,” said Father Timothy Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference, the organization that represents the Society of Jesus in Canada and the US.  “Pope Francis is calling us to ecological conversion and integral change, to free ourselves from a culture of waste and to live in solidarity with creation and the most vulnerable.  This is at the heart of our teaching and who we are as Catholics.”

This story is drawn from an earlier press release shared with Ecojesuit by Cecilia Calvo, Senior Advisor on Environmental Justice at the National Advocacy Office of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.

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