On Eve of First Anniversary of Papal Encyclical, Jesuit Institutions Are Living Laudato Si’

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From Carbon Challenges to Community Gardens, Jesuits Heed Pope’s Call

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Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States

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.

As the one-year anniversary of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical on the environment, approaches, Jesuit institutions are taking stock of their response to the pope's rallying cry to care for our common home.

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. Click here to see a roundup of Jesuit institutions’ environmental programs and activities.

“We are just beginning to see the impacts of the encyclical, which is not about short-term change or easy fixes,” said Jesuit Father Timothy P. Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference, the organization that represents the Society of Jesus in Canada and the U.S. “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.”

As members of the pope’s religious order, Jesuits have taken special care to prioritize action on the issue. Following is a sampling of how Jesuit institutions have risen to the challenge:

  •     Jesuit universities leading the way: All 28 Jesuit universities in the U.S. have embraced Laudato Si’. Jesuit schools and universities are integrating themes of sustainability, ecology and social justice into their dialogue, practices, course offerings and curriculum.

Loyola University Chicago held a symposium last fall, “Caring for Our Common Home: Conversations on Ecology & 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 is also identifying ways to integrate ecology into its curriculum and in the fall 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 St. 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 U.S. have responded to the encyclical by holding prayer services and hosting discussions on the implications of Laudato Si’. For example, St. Ignatius Loyola Parish and School in Sacramento, California, hosted an educational series on the encyclical and on September 1, 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, 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.

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.

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About the Society of Jesus in Canada and the United States
Founded in 1540 by Saint Ignatius Loyola, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) is the largest order of priests and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church. Jesuit priests and brothers are involved in educational, pastoral and spiritual ministries around the world, practicing a faith that promotes justice. In Canada and the United States, there are 30 Jesuit colleges and 80 pre-secondary and secondary schools with a shared goal of developing competent, compassionate and committed leaders in the service of the Church and society. Jesuits minister in parishes and at retreat houses and serve as chaplains at prisons, hospitals, nursing homes and in the military. In Canada and the U.S., the Jesuits are represented by the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, headquartered in Washington, D.C. For more information on the Society of Jesus, visit http://www.jesuits.org.

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Doris Yu
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