By: Madeline Alvarez, Managing Editor
“Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home” is Pope Francis’ first encyclical, which is a papal letter sent to all Catholic bishops. It was published in 2015, and Francis wrote it to remind the faithful of their duty to care for the earth.
On Oct. 29, Newman President Kathleen Jagger signed a commitment between Newman and a platform committed to forming an action plan to incorporate Laudato Si’ values into universities and other institutions.
The platform was created by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and was officially launched on Sunday. Jagger said she first learned about the Laudato Si’ platform last year when the Dicastery started posting information online about its release.
She also received materials from the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, which contacted all its members’ presidents, inviting them to “join together in a positive response and commitment to the platform,” she said.
Before signing the commitment, Jagger brought the idea to the members of Newman’s Board of Trustees. They approved and members said they felt it was important for Newman to join, she said.
“We are a Catholic institution, and this is an important opportunity to join with the international church to respond to the invitation from Pope Francis and the Dicastery for all people to participate in this worldwide sacred effort to save our planet and to develop an integral ecology,” Jagger said.
Jagger said the Dicastery has specified seven goals it wants participants to work towards implementing: response to the cry of the earth, response to the cry of the poor, ecological economics, adoption of sustainable lifestyles, ecological education, ecological spirituality and community resilience and empowerment.
“There are resources available online and elsewhere to help plan programs and activities for each goal,” Jagger said. “There are also resources available for each of the respective groups being invited to participate in this effort, educational institutions, including colleges and universities, being one of the seven groups.”
The commitment Jagger signed will last seven years. She said that Father Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, coordinator of the Ecology and Creation office of the Vatican department for Integral Human Development, outlined the different stages in the implementation process and said that the first year of the plan will be dedicated to planning. The middle five years will be focused on concrete action, and the last year will be devoted to praising and thanking God, she said.
She said Kureethadam explained that a seven-year plan was chosen because the number seven has a biblical significance.
“Seven is a significant number in Scripture and is often associated with perfect,” Jagger said.
“There are also seven goals and
seven groups invited to be active in this process.”
Newman is in the process of forming a Laudato Si’ committee to work on a plan for Newman to implement.
University Chaplain Father Adam Grelinger is heading the creation of Newman’s Laudato Si’ committee, along with Sr. Therese Wetta, ASC. Grelinger said that he and Wetta want to involve representatives from all members of the Newman community in the committee, including students, faculty, staff, the IT department, groundspeople, facilities people and food service people. Their plan is for the committee to reflect on the document, study the plan and work to make sustainable changes, Grelinger said.
He said their hope is to form the committee before the end of this semester.
“I think we...can be more economical with our facilities and our resources with IT and lighting and electricity and food service,” he said. “So those, I think, might fall under the Sustainable Lifestyle goal.”
Other important goals he said he would like Newman to focus on are the ecological spirituality goal and the ecological education goal.
Grelinger said he plans to personally study the Laudato Si’ encyclical so that he can lead the committee in the study of it when the group is formed.
“We have, led by Dr. Jagger, chosen to take this on as a way to heed the call of Pope Francis, but also just to care for God‘s creation and to see what we could be doing better,” he said.
PHOTO: Courtesy Photo, University Relations