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Implementing Laudato Si’

By Sister Suzanne Moynihan
Laudato Si' Action Platform graphic

Into our convoluted problem-ridden social matrix, riddled with greed, drugs, racism, prejudice of all kinds, war, unequal resource distribution and ideological divisiveness comes Pope Francis’ document, “On Care for Our Common Home.” This is a papal letter written to expose the basic concerns of Mother Earth that are interconnected. This document, which is addressed to every person on this planet and You Are Sent, the Constitution of the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND), both embrace the truth that all life is sacred.

You Are Sent is the foundation of why the international congregation of SSND promises to live out the principles of Laudato Si'; it is who we are. As shared in the SSND public commitment statement in May 2021, “The Triune God impels us into the heart of the world to be women of peace, hope and love. As a Laudato Si’ congregation, we embark on a seven-year journey toward an integral ecology. In fidelity to our charism and the mission to bring all to oneness, we commit to live more simply, responsibly and sustainably and to educate, advocate and act in collaboration with others for the dignity of life and the care of all creation. Called to live our mission prophetically, we School Sisters of Notre Dame live and minister with the conviction that the world can be changed through the transformation of persons.”

Both inspirational documents forge a starlit path through a mighty dark forest. They courageously deal with the global ecological crisis as shared in You Are Sent, “the defining spiritual crisis of the human species.” These documents remind us of who we are; persons rooted in God as citizens of the only planet that can grow trees.

Sister Suzanne Moynihan is passionate about the Care of Creation and thus joined the recently formed Laudato Si’ Care of Creation Committee. She is featured reading in this photo.

Laudato Si’ uncomfortably uncovers the root cause of climate change. As a species, we think we have a right to use seemingly infinite resources solely for our own development. Do not animals and bodies of water also have a right to an equitable distribution of resources? Inadvertently, we have created a pile of waste, released unmanageable carbon emissions into the atmosphere and crippled systems detrimental to all of life. At the heart of his 177-page message, Pope Francis proposes a key solution: integral ecology to offset this divisiveness. “It cannot be emphasized enough how everything is interconnected…we are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it.” This was shared in a collection of essays; “At the Edge of the Roof: The Evolutionary Crisis of the Human Spirit;” and “Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth.” Pope Francis outlines how humanity interrelates to other planetary life systems; how environmental problems are bred in personal, familial, urban economic contexts; that the health of the individual and the environment are interlaced and codependent on each other. Ecology is not a separate issue but interwoven in the fabric of societal structures.

The SSND way of life affirms that principle of unity in our Constitution You Are Sent, “Our mission is to proclaim the good news as School Sisters of Notre Dame, directing our entire lives toward that oneness for which Jesus Christ was sent.” We reverberate the truth for all peoples: we are the responsible species linked to all of life. As Chief Seattle, a Suquamish chief who lived on the islands of the Puget Sound shared in his Letter to All. “This we know: the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

Emboldened by Divine Grace, together, we can lessen the harmful effects of global warming. We can creatively respond to the climate crisis on our planet. We can vote to charge the oil and coal industries for their toxic emissions and then distribute that revenue equitably to all U.S. households. We can vote for green technology to power our transportation vehicles. We can advocate for sustainable energy to heat or cool our homes. We can petition large grocery markets to purchase more of our food locally. We can contact our congressional representatives insisting they pass legislation to preserve our air, water, and farmland and stabilize our weather to safeguard all of life. As institutions, we can divest ourselves, at least partially, from contributing to the fossil fuel industry. We can create conversations about how climate change has affected us locally and thus inspire each other to act.

Let us give Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ words some thought: “One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.”

We can, can’t we?

Reflective Question:

Reflecting on the wisdom of Laudato Si’ and You Are Sent, will we come to the same conclusion Mary Oliver did in her poem When Death Comes?

…I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Consider the following question listed in the Laudato Si’ :
What kind of world do we want to leave behind, environmentally, culturally, and morally?


Learn more about the SSND Laudato Si’ seven-year commitment.


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