By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published April 1, 2021
ATLANTA—The Vatican’s Dicastery for Promotion of Integral Human Development launched a seven-year journey toward sustainability and integral ecology for the Catholic Church, inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’.
Representatives from around the world were invited to be a part of the Laudato Si’ Action Plan working group, including Kat Doyle, director of Justice and Peace Ministries for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
The working group will create content for the Laudato Si’ Action Platform (LSAP), an online tool that will offer “inspiration, resources and a flexible framework to translate the values and knowledge of Laudato Si’ into communities of action around the world,” said Father Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, SBD, coordinator for the ecology sector of the dicastery.
Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home,” was released in 2015. In it, the Holy Father challenges Catholics to reflect and change the ways resources are used to care for God’s creation. Since then, the church has taken steps to become more environmentally friendly.
To mark the fifth year of the encyclical, Pope Francis announced a special Laudato Si’ anniversary year, from May 24, 2020 through this year. The launch of the LSAP is part of the year-long celebration, “to make communities around the world totally sustainable in the spirit of integral ecology of Laudato Si’,” the website explains. Integral ecology is being more conscious of the ways in which we are all connected.
Creating the plan
The areas of focus for the Laudato Si’ Action Plan working group are families, parishes and dioceses, educational institutions, hospitals and healthcare centers, businesses and agricultural farms and religious orders. Doyle represents Atlanta in the parishes and dioceses group.
While there are religious participating, the majority of working group members are laity from around the world who work in sustainability. Representatives from each of the categories will develop measurable targets to track progress and provide certification, invite local networks to participate in efforts, share projects and provide ongoing support.
LSAP is “a single global framework that unites our distinct experiences and perspectives under one umbrella, promoting local and sectoral initiatives to the fullest possible extent and developing each member of the human family to lead in his or her own way,” said Father Kureethadam.
So far, the group is working to address the needs of the poor, the earth, ecological education and spirituality. Sustainability needs to be woven into spiritual practices and liturgy, said Doyle.
There will be an informal introduction of LSAP on May 24. The official launch is scheduled for Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
Doyle said that the seven-year goal is to create critical mass, which is the minimal number of people needed to create change. In 2017, the Vatican estimated there are about 1.285 billion Catholics worldwide. With a critical mass goal of 3.5 percent, 42 million Catholics would be engaged in the program by 2028.
“We’ve been given this wonderful planet,” said Doyle. “We need to take it seriously, not just in our actions but in the spirituality of hope.”
The Laudato Si’ Action Plan for the Archdiocese of Atlanta was created in November 2015. Authored by professors and staff at the University of Georgia, it contains various suggestions for how the faithful and parishes can help to create a more sustainable world.
Since its implementation, numerous sustainable efforts have been made in the local church. This includes energy audits, community gardens, recycling efforts and forming parish green teams that encourage and lead environment-friendly initiatives.
Justice and Peace Ministries for the Atlanta Archdiocese continues to support parishes, schools and ministries with these efforts. The ministry also sponsors the annual Green Mass, which includes a luncheon featuring dishes from local farms and sustainable utensils and tableware.
Over the last six years, parishes have reduced costs by installing clean energy technology, such as energy efficient light bulbs, automatic light sensors and WiFi thermostats.
Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Atlanta used funds from their 2018 #iGiveCatholic campaign to build solar panels. These are just some of the many examples of sustainable efforts in the local church.
“The work we’re doing in Atlanta is high level,” said Doyle.
More local resources will be available in the coming months. On May 24, there will be three groups working toward sustainability in north and central Georgia. This includes a roundtable of local experts, a group that serves as a resource for locations to continue sustainability efforts and a creation care team open to everyone in the archdiocese.
Overall, Doyle sees this as an opportunity to get everyone involved to create a movement to safeguard the earth. It’s really a call for all to participate as individuals, parishes, dioceses, communities and as a global human family, said Doyle.
“There is something for everybody. It doesn’t matter where you stand politically. It doesn’t matter how socially aware you are,” she said. “There are actions everybody can take.”