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From macro to micro: Living out Laudato Si’

By Sister Kathy Schmittgens

The encyclical Laudato Si’ was launched on May 24, 2015. A few days later, at a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, the chairperson for that day held up a copy of the encyclical and urged everyone in the Assembly to read the document! Sister Eileen Reilly, SSND United Nations Representative at the time, told this story. The Assembly was hard at work during this time trying to develop the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). Those goals spoke to the same urgency that is found in Laudato Si’.

Sister Kathryn Schoolmeesters watering her garden

The timing of the encyclical was not random. Along with the SDG’s, there was an International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa in July and what is known as COP21 to be held in Paris in December. COP21 was the UN Climate Change Conference. Out of that conference came what is known as “The Paris Agreement”. In that agreement there was a commitment to hold the global temperature to no more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Pope Francis was eager to have the voice of faith influence all these events.

There was little articulated in Catholic Social Teaching on Care of the Environment before Laudato Si’. Now, it is an important part of our ethics and morality. An important concept in Laudato Si’ is integral ecology. What that means simply is that decisions that are made should take into consideration both the cries of the earth and the cries of the poor. If a decision is good for the environment but, in the process, causes more hardship for the poor, it must be reconsidered.

The encyclical is written “for everyone on the planet.” It urges action for the common good. It reminds us of the great love of the Creator that is infused in all creation. It asks us to see that “everything is connected.” It reminds us that no matter how small a contribution we can make to show love and concern for the Earth and its people, it is important. It pleads with us to consider the generations yet to come.

Canisters that SSND upcycled for gifts

At a province level, SSND held the Shalom Seminar 2015 address by Cardinal Turkson, one of the main writers of Laudato Si’. The province has created educational opportunities, joined other religious in celebrating the Season of Creation, joined hundreds of other Catholic congregations in becoming a Laudato Si’ Congregation, and created province commitments. The General Council continues to invest each year in energy saving projects to offset their travel carbon footprint and the Generalate installed solar panels on the roof for water heating. At the local and individual level, sisters and communities have engaged in a variety of activities!

Milwaukee associates encouraged each other to live more simply, eat less meat, buy earth-friendly products, and use recipes that are healthier for them. Recently, the sisters at Sancta Maria in Ripa, St. Louis, had a day of reflection focused on the issues of Laudato Si’ and were encouraged to get involved in the efforts that Pope Francis is promulgating. Last year, sisters in the San Antonio area spent time each month learning something new from Laudato Si’ that they could discuss and act on. At Trinity Woods, Milwaukee, sisters are composting, trying to use less plastic and inviting other residents living there to do the same. A bonding community in St. Paul, Minnesota, consisting of two associates and two sisters, has as one of their goals for this year to “inform one another of the events, speakers, workshops, virtual meetings, and videos regarding Laudato Si’ issues.”

There are so many ways to engage in Pope Francis’ call to Catholics worldwide to care for our Earth. SSND is just one of the many Catholic congregations joining in the vision laid out in Laudato Si’! Find out more about Laudato Si’ and join the call to care for all creation.


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