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Alert to rapidly evolving conditions in a changing society, we discern which world conditions we are called to address.

You Are Sent, GD 37

By Tim Dewane, Director, Central Pacific Province Shalom-JPIC

The mission of School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) is to proclaim the good news. To be consistent with the desire of Jesus, that all may be one becomes more fully our own, SSND strive for the unity that embraces all humanity and the whole of creation. Seeing themselves as one with all of creation and attentive to the ecological and humanitarian crisis facing us at this time, SSND have accepted Pope Francis’ invitation to become a Laudato Si’ Congregation. This means SSND agree with the following:

“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.” – SSND Public Commitment Statement, May 2021

This is quite a commitment. However, it is not a new direction. It is a clear reflection of existing SSND values and priorities rooted in You Are Sent, the Constitution of the School Sister of Notre Dame and Love Gives Everything, the directional statement from the most recent General Chapter, as well as the desire to respond proactively to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.

Responding to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor

In Laudato Si’, a landmark encyclical on care for our common home, Pope Francis urged the faithful and all people to listen to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor and to recognize the crisis facing the planet and all God’s creation. He emphasized that we don’t face “two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental” (139). Pope Francis’ message was one of urgency, stressing the need for personal and community conversion in order to address a climate crisis that threatens all of God’s creation.

SSND and associates gather to clean the highway, which the SSND have adopted in St. Louis near Sancta Maria in Ripa for over 15 years.

To promote action needed to address our humanitarian and climate crisis, the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development developed the Laudato Si’ Action Platform (LSAP) initiative. The LSAP is a multi-year process that aims to make communities around the world totally sustainable in the spirit of the integral ecology of Laudato Si’. It is a space for Catholic institutions, communities and families to learn and grow together as we journey toward full sustainability in the holistic spirit of integral ecology.

With our commitment to become a Laudato Si’ congregation, SSND have joined other religious communities and Catholic organizations on a seven-year journey towards full sustainability. This year, another group of Catholic organizations, hopefully twice as large as the first, will begin their seven-year journey, and so on. Growing exponentially each year, the amount of Catholic organizations begin to leverage the transformational power of the gospel and the Catholic Church community, until we arrive at the “critical mass” needed for societal transformation and true sustainable living for all life on Earth.

The framework for this initiative is the seven Laudato Si' Goals grounded in the encyclical's concept of integral ecology. These holistic goals reflect the gamut of Catholic social teaching. Each goal is focused on sustainability — meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs; maintaining the conditions under which humans and all life can exist in productive harmony.


1) Response to the cry of the Earth — Refers to the ecological and environmental challenges we are facing today, including the climate crisis, air and water pollution, along with the elimination of species. In response, SSND will build upon existing efforts to do such things as:

    • Reduce their energy consumption and use water wisely
    • Expand recycling and composting efforts
    • Eliminate single use plastic when possible
    • Eat less meat – such as meatless Mondays
    • Advocate for public policies and corporate practices to address these crises and better care for our common home
Three sisters hold up a sign that reads Dignity and Respect for all creation!

2) Response to the cry of the poor — Refers to the defense of human life from conception to natural death, with special attention to the poor and others who suffer or are disadvantaged because their human rights and/or dignity are not respected. Their situation is often exacerbated by the impacts of pollution and the deterioration of the environment. In response, SSND will build upon existing ministries, awareness-building and advocacy efforts to support vulnerable groups, including those living in poverty, indigenous communities and migrants, as well as those subjected to racism, violence and trafficking.

3) Ecological economics — Refers to the production and consumption of goods and services without destruction of the environment or exploitation of workers. It means meeting the needs of the present without sacrificing the needs of future generations. In response, SSND will focus on such things as:

    • Purchasing more fair-trade products
    • Prioritizing ethical consumption practices
    • Exploring further divestment of fossil fuels
    • Advocating for public and corporate practices that promote responsible sourcing and sustainable practices

4) Adoption of simple lifestyles — Refers to personal and community purchasing and lifestyle choices that reduce one’s negative impact on people and the Earth. In response, SSND will work on:

    • Eliminating single-use plastic wherever possible
    • Advocating for alternative packaging
    • Purchasing food that is local and produced in sustainable and humane ways
    • Eating less meat, such as meatless Mondays
    • Making choices that use less energy
    • Recycling and composting
    • Consuming and purchasing less and buying secondhand
    • Being even more mindful about water and paper use
This photo is of a Peace Pole and a statue of Jesus.

5) Ecological education — Refers to the process of continuous learning about how nature functions; how all forms of life are connected; the ecological changes that are happening and how people can manage their behavior to promote sustainability. In response, SSND will engage in and support educational efforts to bolster this understanding via all our ministerial engagements.

6) Ecological spirituality — Refers to the experience of the spiritual connection between the Divine, human beings and all God’s creation. In response, SSND will continue to embrace the natural world with wonder and awe, with gratitude for God’s creation and encourage others to do the same by the promotion of retreats, workshops and creation-inspired liturgical celebrations.

7) Emphasis on community involvement and participatory action — Refers to collaborative engagement and advocacy locally and beyond, to promote policies and practices that respect the dignity of life and care for our common home. In response, SSND will continue to advocate at the local, national and international levels to promote the dignity of life and address systemic injustice through collaborative engagements with groups such as:

Participation in the Laudato Si’ Action Platform by the School Sisters of Notre Dame draws upon existing commitments to respond to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor through education, advocacy and other collaborative engagements for the dignity of life and the care of all creation. It builds upon actions SSND have already taken and deepens the desire and commitment to live ever more simply, responsibly and sustainably. Ultimately, it is about love of God, love of neighbor and love of all God’s creation.

Do you hear the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor? Consider how you are called to respond. Learn more and explore the Laudato Si’ Action Platform.

“The gift of our internationality sharpens our consciousness of universal needs and calls us to foster within ourselves and others a responsible concern for the people of the world. ”
– You are Sent,
GD 36


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Phone: 314-561-4100



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