As the world’s leaders are gathering in Scotland for the U.N. Climate Change Conference, the Dominican Sisters of Peace, Loretto Community, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and Ursuline Sisters of Louisville are among several groups of women religious in Kentucky committing to a community and personal effort to address today’s pressing environmental problems by participating in the Laudato Si’ Action Platform.
The Laudato Si’ Action Platform brings together the Vatican, Catholic organizations around the world, and people of goodwill seeking climate justice. It was inspired by Pope Francis’s 2015 ecological encyclical “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.”
According to the platform’s website, the Laudato Si’ Action Platform is “a space for institutions, communities and families to learn and grow together as we journey toward full sustainability in the holistic spirit of integral ecology.” The seven-year program was launched by the Vatican Office for Integral Ecology. Its purpose is “to make communities around the world totally sustainable in the spirit of the integral ecology of Laudato Si’.”
The action platform outlines seven categories of sustainability goals, including responding to societal and climate issues, rethinking ecological education, recovering ecological spirituality and adopting a sustainable lifestyle. Officially to be unveiled Nov. 14, LSAP already is serving as a guiding force for many worldwide – including women and men religious — as all of us seek to address issues of sustainability and climate justice.
The Dominican Sisters of Peace, Loretto Community, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and Ursuline Sisters of Louisville have long cared for Earth in their personal and communal practices and commitments. Their care for Earth also touches upon their commitments to serve people who suffer from the effects of the destruction of our natural resources and changing climate.
These commitments include but are not exclusive to the economically poor, immigrants and refugees. They each recognize, though, that systemic change is just as crucial as personal change. These communities pledge to move beyond their commitments to sustained action, developing programs, policies and actions that reflect their commitments to LSAP.
Sister Gemma Doll, OP, a member of the Leadership team for the Dominican Sisters of Peace, said that it is love of God and God’s precious creation that impels us to treasure and reverence the Earth. “We show our reverence by living the truth as proclaimed in Laudato Si’, by advocating in solidarity with others in caring for God’s creation, and by taking concrete action to walk more softly on Earth,” Doll said.
“In managing Loretto Community land, our priorities are to sequester carbon, to protect undisturbed spaces and to regenerate degraded spaces by improving the soil and protecting our waterways,” Loretto Coordinator for Earth Education and Advocacy Jessie Rathburn said. “Individual efforts in reducing energy consumption and recycling have broadened at the communal level to include initiatives like installing an electric car charging station, organizing significant reductions in single-use items and expanding campus-wide recycling. Divesting from fossil fuels shaped our financial resources to more closely align with our relationship with Earth. The LSAP will provide a pathway to deepen these individual and communal actions and connect them to the broader systemic changes that are so urgent.”
Director of Ecological Sustainability for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Carolyn Cromer, said that Integral Ecology is the belief that “all of God’s creation is connected, and examines how the condition of the environment impacts the lives and habitats of all life on Earth.”
“In the next seven years, we will intensify our current efforts to look at how our actions and choices impact the environment, including how we eat sustainably, choose renewable energy, support sustainable transportation, regenerate the land and seek sustainable products,” she added. “In turn, we will discern how this affects the lives of those who are most impacted by our changing climate: the economically poor, immigrants, refugees and our common home.”
“Some of our tangible efforts on behalf of Laudato Si’ include socially responsible investing, increasing our social energy investment to offset our carbon footprint, supporting the FOREST Act to reduce deforestation, especially of the Amazon, where we have had a presence in Peru for over 50 years, and volunteering with local ecological ministries in Louisville such as Olmsted Parks Conservancy, TreesLouisville and Beargrass Creek Alliance,” said Carol Curtis, Ursuline Sister of Louisville social concerns liaison. “Additionally, we have reduced our own physical footprint with our campus property transfer to the Sacred Heart Schools. In transferring property to SHS, we preserved an urban greenspace, advocated for building salvage during renovation and for environmentally sustainable design in new construction.”
The Sisters said we now face an existential threat to our common home as never before, caused by the consumption of more of the earth’s resources than it can sustain.
“Together, with Pope Francis, we call on all persons, whatever their belief or worldview, to listen to these cries, and to pledge meaningful sacrifices for the sake of our common home.”