Efforts to spread Laudato Si’ message bearing fruit

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, May 9, 2018

People collects drinking water from a mountain spring in Cape Town, South Africa, Jan. 19. A Ghanaian bishop urged Catholic leaders from around Africa to use Pope Francis' environmental encyclical "Laudato Si'" as the basis of their work and to encourage others involve in ecological work to do the same. Catholic leaders in the Archdiocee of Chicago say Laudato Si' is beginning to take root here as well. (CNS photo/Nic Bothma, EPA)

Three years after Pope Francis released his encyclical “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” grass-roots efforts to keep the earth healthy are starting to bear fruit.

In April, Vicariate I hosted an Earth Day retreat at Cardinal Stritch Retreat House on the grounds of the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary. The day included time for reflection and Mass celebrated by Mundelein’s rector/president, Father John Kartje. On April 26, about 20 Catholics travelled to Springfield for an environmental lobby day with members of the Sierra Club, Faith in Place and the Illinois Environmental Council, said Ryan Lents, director of the Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity.

On April 23, Illinois Rep. Kelly Burke a Democrat from Oak Lawn, introduced a resolution supported by the Catholic Conference of Illinois marking the third anniversary of Laudato Si’ by reminding everyone, including government leaders, of their responsibility to care for our common home.

“This is putting our Catholic values into action,” Lents said. “This is an integral part of Catholic social teaching.”

Environmental damage harms not only the earth, Lents said, but also people, and those who bear the brunt of it are the poor.

People from Vicariate 6 will meet at St. Bride Parish May 18 and people from Vicariate I will meet at St. Joseph Parish, Libertyville, May 19.

“We want to bring parishes together to learn from one another,” Lents said.

Many parishes are also working with the archdiocesan real estate and facilities and construction offices to find ways to increase energy efficiency and reduce energy use. 

“If we could save 10 percent on our energy costs, we could save millions of dollars,” Lents said.

In addition, the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary will host a “Faith and Environment Lecture” by Kartje on May 23.

“The ministry has really grown, and there’s a lot of interest in it,” said Jenna Rummelhart, senior communications coordinator in the Department of Parish Vitality and Mission.

The working group received help from DePaul University MBA students through the Steans Center, which helps the university partner with non-profit community groups. As part of their course work, students provided recommendations for developing a strategic communications plan, and helped to clarify roles and responsibilities between staff, volunteers and other leaders.

The group is in the process of recruiting volunteers in each of the vicariates, Rummelhart said.

The students also helped the working group with volunteer management, Rummelhart said, noting that any effort that runs on the efforts of volunteers faces certain challenges.

“They gave us some strategies to make the process smoother,” Rummelhart said.

Rummelhart said she’s also working with DePaul assistant professor Jill Hopke, who specializes in environmental communication, to put together a workshop for people involved in environmental efforts at the parish and vicariate level.

“We want to help them advertise Care for Our Common Home events and to develop a narrative of what they are doing in their own communities,” Rummelhart said. “It’s more effective when you can relate to it.”

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