BLOOMFIELD – Less than a year after Pope Francis released an encyclical calling for “care for our common home,” agencies and individuals in the Archdiocese of Hartford are meeting the challenge.
The 184-page encyclical Laudato Si’, published May 24, 2015, calls on people everywhere to take “swift and unified global action” to conserve resources and begin reversing trends that, in the pope’s words, make our earth “look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”
“Laudato si” means “Praise be to you” and are the opening words of Canticle of the Creatures, a work by Saint Francis of Assisi. The full sentence, quoted in the encyclical, translates to “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.”
One of the local agencies leading the educational charge is the archdiocese’s Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry (OCSJM). Lynn Campbell, executive director, said, “We are the diocesan office of CRS [Catholic Relief Services], and CRS has seen the effects of climate change. We are out there sharing that story.”
In September, Mary O’Brien from OCSJM and Miriam Hidalgo from the Office of Education, Catachesis and Evangelization traveled to Malawi, Africa, on an immersion trip, part of a seven-person delegation to find out how CRS could better serve this small nation, one of the worst-developed in the world. Among the people- and earth-saving projects already under way in one village are “shallow wells in different stages of construction … for agricultural production” and “a nutrition program, using plants and products grown right in the village,” according to a blog post by Ms. O’Brien.
An OCSJM environmental justice team, led by Sarah Hillier, reaches out to parishes to build awareness of Laudato Si’, Ms. Campbell said. Several parishes have responded by forming their own study and action groups, including at St. Thomas the Apostle in West Hartford. Parishioner Brenda McLaughlin told the Transcript by email, “We’ve got some fledgling efforts underway to address Francis’ beautiful – and challenging! – encyclical at St. Thomas the Apostle.”
The parish also sponsored a workshop on March 14 by Sister Ruth Rosenbaum that focused on how the environment has changed, the challenges we face and some possible solutions. Sister Ruth is co-founder and executive director of the Hartford-based Center for Reflection, Education and Action, a Hartford-based social economic research and education organization. The workshop focused on how the environment has changed, the challenges we now face and some possible solutions.
Other archdiocesan agencies are also building awareness of the encyclical. On March 6, the Catholic Biblical School sponsored a workshop at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield. Sister of St. Joseph Barbara Bozak spoke about the biblical roots of Laudato Si’.
The Office of Catholic Schools has dedicated a treasure trove of educational materials about Laudato Si’ on a page of its website at http://catholicschoolsct.org/resources/laudato-si-praised-be. At the site are an official Vatican video about the encyclical; links to prayers for the care of creation; a list of hymns that celebrate “the joy of creation”; links to relevant materials offered by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, CRS and the Connecticut Green Leaf Schools Program; and links to relevant books and media for the classroom.
“Our [environmental justice] team is also doing educational/leadership events that are open to all,” Ms. Campbell said. “We did one in October and have another planned on April 9, at St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Rocky Hill called ‘Creating a Culture of Solidarity, Encounter, and Relationship.’ It covers main points of the encyclical and includes leadership skill development.”
On June 11, the OCSJM’s annual Bishop Rosazza Social Justice Conference will feature as keynote speaker Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist Damien Marie Savino, chair of the Department of Environmental Science and Studies at the University of St. Thomas in Houston.
For information on these and other Laudato Si’-related events, go to www.catholicsocialjustice.org or contact OCSJM at its new location at the archdiocesan center in Bloomfield. The new phone number is 860-242-5573.