In early October, Pope Francis released his apostolic exhortation, “Laudate Deum: To All the People of Good Will on the Climate Crisis” as a follow-up to his popular 2015 encyclical letter “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.”
“Eight years have passed since I published the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, when I wanted to share with all of you, my brothers and sisters of our suffering planet, my heartfelt concerns about the care of our common home,” Pope Francis wrote in the exhortation. “Yet, with the passage of time, I have realized that our responses have not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point.
“In addition to this possibility, it is indubitable that the impact of climate change will increasingly prejudice the lives and families of many persons,” it continues. “We will feel its effects in the areas of healthcare, sources of employment, access to resources, housing, forced migrations, etc. This is a global social issue and one intimately related to the dignity of human life.”
Upon the release of the apostolic exhortation, there is one group that decided to take what action they could. The Faith and Justice Ministry at St. Henry Church began a series of weekly discussions entitled “Why do we need to revisit … Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home?”
The Faith and Justice Ministry’s official mission is to educate, advocate, pray, and discern opportunities “to address, inform, and raise awareness about systems which affect the human dignity of all persons on a local, state, national, and international level. The life and teachings of Christ Jesus and the social teaching of the Catholic Church provide the guidelines of this ministry.”
“The pope was coming out with a new exhortation about Laudato Si’, and we felt like there had been a number of new parishioners that had moved into the parish that maybe had not been introduced to Laudato Si’ so we thought we should revisit it,” explained Faith and Justice Ministry member Sandra Smith. “It’s really, really made a difference in our understanding, even studying it prior to these sessions.
“The group is small, but they’re enthusiastic,” she added, “and they truly believe that there is a crisis with the climate and the pope has pointed that out in a very scientific and faith-filled response.”
Throughout the weekly series, which is scheduled for 10:10-10:50 a.m. every Sunday through Nov. 19, in the Parish Hall Meeting Room, a new guest speaker has come to talk about different sides of the issue and open up discussion among the nearly dozen members of the group.
So far, topics discussed have included: “One Earth, One People” led by Father Mark Beckman, pastor of St. Henry, and Elizabeth Krogman, member of the Faith and Justice Ministry; “What’s Happening to Our Common Home,” led by Krogman; “A Gospel of Creation,” led by Faith and Justice Ministry member Irene Boyd; “Human Responsibility,” led by Jesuit Father Bruce Morrill, professor of theology in the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University; and “Principle of Common Good,” led by John Foreman, a parishioner of St. Henry.
In the most recent session with Foreman, attendees talked about everything from the Biblical foundation of the concept of the common good, the common good in Catholic social teaching, and the common good as laid out throughout the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Afterwards, group members discussed the concerns about the common good, particularly the cultural emphasis on individual freedoms, the idea of “freeloaders,” and the inconsistencies of the common good in a pluralistic society.
At the end of the discussion, 30-year-old Ana Antunovic said she agreed with a lot of what Foreman had to say and the conversations had among the group members.
“The society here is very individualistic, and we just think about our lives and ourselves, and we don’t think about the greater picture of other things that are important for the good of all humanity. We are too distracted and disconnected from the realities of the consequences of our actions,” Antunovic explained. “I’m the only younger person here for this, so, for me, I’m worried about young people not being aware of these issues.
“What’s going to happen when they get older? Are they going to want to be involved in making a difference?” she continued. “Are they even going to be aware of how badly we are harming the earth with our actions, or our lack of change?”
That’s why she said she feels discussions like the ones the Faith and Justice Ministry are having are important.
“Education and making everyone, especially young people, aware should be a priority,” she said. “This is our world and it’s our environment, so if we don’t take care of it, what world will we have when we’re older and our children are growing up? It’s our common home, and we are each obligated to protect it, especially as Christians.
“As Pope Francis says in “Laudato Si’,” our earth is the greatest evidence that we have of God’s existence,” she said. “So why are we abusing it instead of treating it with love and respect as God entrusted us to do?”
The next sessions, set for Nov. 5, 12, and 19, will talk about “Moving Toward Solutions” with Rev. Paul Slentz, a United Methodist minister and co-founder of the Creation Care Ministry of the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church, “Toward a Spirituality of Change” with Smith, and “Sending forth: Taking Action to Save Our Common Home” with Krogman, Boyd, and James Powers, who are all members of the Faith and Justice Ministry.
All sessions are free and open to all.
For more information, email Smith at email@example.com.