Jesuit Social Services and Laudato Si’ Week and beyond

Jesuit Social Services and Laudato Si’ Week and beyond

Australian social change organization Jesuit Social Services acknowledges Laudato Si’ Week as an opportunity to reflect on how to better safeguard our common home and to continue to recognize the disproportionate effects of ecological harm and climate change. Laudato Si’ Week with the theme, Seeds of Hope, is celebrated this year from 19 to 26 May to mark the anniversary of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on caring for our common home.

In 2012, Jesuit Social Services established an Environmental Way of Proceeding, and in 2021 developed an Ecological Justice Strategy. Both of these inform all aspects of the work in Jesuit Social Services.

An important initiative is their establishment of the Centre for Just Places which recognizes the critical need for communities to develop local and place-based solutions to growing environmental challenges.

In Melbourne’s West, for example, the Centre collaborated with over 44 Community Health and Community Service Organisations (CHCSOs) and provided support as they faced the interlocking challenges of climate change, health, and social justice.

CHCSOs play a critical role in building resilience in the face of the social and health impacts of climate change. They provide vital support services and build strong networks and relationships within communities. Without the resources to plan and adapt to change, however, the sector itself is vulnerable to the impact of climate change, posing a risk of flow-on consequences for the communities they support.

The rapid urbanization of Melbourne’s western suburbs heightened the risks of extreme heat and its associated impact on health. In their research report, Dropping off the Edge 2021, Jesuit Social Services looked into the complex and entrenched locational disadvantage in communities and the factors that worsen their situation. These include housing stress, insufficient green canopy cover, and overcrowding, underscoring the need to address social inequalities with climate resilience efforts.

The Centre’s work helps CHSCOs understand the localized and systemic factors that make them vulnerable to climate change through the Collaborative Action Plan for Climate Justice which outlines a strategy for building just and equitable climate resilience in Melbourne’s West. Its collaborative, locally-led approach created a shared vision of climate justice that supports community members at greatest risk to climate change impacts.

In a webinar on 15 November 2022, this plan that articulates a shared vision for climate justice in the west of Melbourne was launched by Jesuit Social Services’ Centre for Just Places and the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation.

Andrew Hamilton SJ, in an earlier posting on Jesuit Social Services wrote: “As does all Ignatian reading of the signs of the times, the approach to climate justice begins with attending to the world in all its complexity, reflects on those who are disadvantaged within it and their needs, and strives to build just communities alongside the organisations that support them.”

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis urges all to heed the call to care for our common home, delivering a powerful message on climate change, inequality, and the imperative of environmental stewardship. With its profound emphasis on the interconnectedness of all life and the urgent need for solutions, Laudato Si’ helps to understand the intersection between social systems and the natural environment, an interaction which Pope Francis refers to as “integral ecology.”

Pope Francis’ words challenge nations, organizations, and individuals to confront the ecological crisis with courage and compassion and how important it is that people of faith work strategically together to meet the threat to our environment. Jesuit Social Services and its ongoing efforts to raise environmental awareness within the community and to advocate for lasting change respond to this challenge of Laudato Si’ and extend beyond Laudato Si’ Week.

Related stories:

Centre for Just Places: Building community resilience to climate change impacts, enabling ecological justice

A heart-felt, hands-on, and holistic response to the refugee situation: The Ecological Justice Hub of Jesuit Social Services Australia

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