Sustainability and Catholic Higher Education
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Sustainability is a key effort by many Catholic colleges and universities to live out the principles of care for creation. Here are just a few examples of the activities taking place on ACCU member campuses:
- Loyola University Chicago, a Catholic Climate Covenant Partner, celebrated the Feast of St. Francis by showing the film Chasing Ice followed by a panel discussion about the science and theology of climate change with three Loyola faculty: Dr. Martin Berg (Biology), Fr. Michael Agliardo, PhD, S.J. (Sociology), and Dr. William French (Theology). More than 100 people attended the event and many took the St. Francis Pledge at the end of the evening.
- Santa Clara University is celebrating the Feast of St. Francis throughout the month of October with the Mission Sustainable Challenge. The initiative, co-sponsored by Santa Clara’s Campus Ministry and Office of Sustainability, invites the campus community to engage in the spirituality of sustainability by reading, acting, and reflecting on a variety of topics. Through daily actions and reflections, the Challenge seeks to help Santa Clara community members better understand and appreciate the essential connection between Catholic mission and environmental sustainability.
- Creighton University celebrated the Feast of St. Francis with several events that culminated with a Feast of St. Francis Mass celebrated by University President Timothy R. Lannon, S.J, and con-celebrated by ten Creighton University Jesuits. The text of Fr. Lannon's homily on the Feast of St. Francis is available here, and after Mass President Lannon then signed the St. Francis Pledge on behalf of Creighton University. Following this, a luncheon was co-sponsored by several groups that included affinity groups related to the school’s Catholic mission-based sustainability efforts.
- The presidents of Gonzaga University and Gonzaga Preparatory School both signed the St. Francis Pledge on behalf of their respective institutions. Brian G. Henning, professor of philosophy at Gonzaga University and co-chair of Gonzaga’s Advisory Council on Stewardship and Sustainability, said "Ecological stewardship is necessary if we are to successfully respond to the growing ecological crisis. Graduating men and women who ‘care for the planet’ is central to Gonzaga’s mission." Similarly, Gonzaga Prep President Al Falkner said, "The concept of Sustainability has deep roots in Ignatian spirituality and our Jesuit mission."
- Benedictine University in Illinois has received a $46,000 Food Scrap Composting Revitalization and Advancement Program (F-SCRAP) grant from the state to allow for the diversion of food scraps generated in the campus cafeteria and other buildings.
- Cabrini College marked Earth Day 2013 (April 22) with an interfaith panel on climate change. In addition, Cabrini is marketing its current Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, chaired by Cabrini biology professor and Green Team member Dr. Caroline Nielsen, as part of its dedication to the assessment component of the St. Francis Pledge.
- The University of Notre Dame has annually celebrated the Feast of St. Francis on October 4 with a special Creation Care Mass at Notre Dame’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart. For the last three years, this Mass has then been followed by a program about Catholic teaching on climate change.
- Neumann University’s Care of Creation Committee and Neumann Institute used the toolkit as the framework for its 2012 Lenten Soup and Sharing program. At each of the five weekly sessions, faculty and staff reflected on one chapter from the toolkit (i.e., one aspect of the St. Francis Pledge) and discussed ways that this Catholic mission-based sustainability theme could be more fully developed at the university.
The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, with support from the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities, and the Catholic Campus Ministry Association, with the help of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, have produced Sustainability and Catholic Higher Education: A Toolkit for Mission Integration (PDF; 3MB).
Through mission-based initiatives, the Toolkit offers practical suggestions to inspire individuals, families, schools, parishes, and dioceses to follow the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change's Catholic Climate Covenant: The St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor. The resource is organized around the five principles of the pledge:
- PRAY and reflect on the duty to care for God's Creation and protect the poor and vulnerable
- LEARN about and educate others on the causes and moral dimensions of climate change
- ASSESS how we-as individuals and in our families, parishes, and other affiliations-contribute to climate change by our own energy use, consumption, waste, etc.
- ACT to change our choices and behaviors to reduce the ways we contribute to climate change
- ADVOCATE for Catholic principles and priorities in climate change discussions and decisions, especially as they impact those who are poor and vulnerable
For each component of the pledge, the Toolkit guides institutions of Catholic higher education to incorporate environmentally sustainable practices and
- identifies who on campus can most effectively address each dimension
- offers proposals for how each element might be implemented on campus
- suggests ways in which the institution might go "beyond the campus" and into the community
- includes stories about how other Catholic colleges and universities are living each aspect