Becoming a “Laudato Si’ University : Task Force on Environmental & Economic Justice

Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, Laudato Si’, called all of us to take concrete steps to care for our common home. This enlivened the Society of Jesus’ commitment to environmental justice and sustainability, which was a key focus during the 2010 Mexico City meeting of Jesuit college and university presidents from across the world.

On Friday, August 5, the IAJU Task Force on Environmental and Economic Justice highlighted Jesuit universities that are pursuing environmental sustainability, and called for all IAJU member institutions to become Laudato Si’universities.

The session was moderated by Dr. Nancy Tuchman of Loyola University Chicago (USA). She emphasized that if we are unable to change our global practices by 2030, we will live in a “constant state of emergency,” due to storms, droughts, and floods.

In May 2021, the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development asked IAJU to respond to the environmental crisis by taking charge of the university sector of Pope Francis’ 7 Year Journey Toward Integral Ecologyfor the universal church. Michael Schuck of Loyola University Chicago (USA) leads the Universities Working Group for the Laudato Si’ Action Platform (LSAP). By March 2022, the IAJU Task Force and colleagues from non-Jesuit universities delivered the complete Universities Pathwayswebsite, which was approved by the Church for use by all Catholic universities participating in the 7 Year Journey.

Universities are called to create an LSAP, which annually assesses universities’ environmental programs and projects on seven areas:

  1. Responding to the cry of the poor;
  2. Responding to the cry of the Earth;
  3. Fostering ecological economies;
  4. Adopting sustainable lifestyles;
  5. Providing ecological education;
  6. Offering knowledge and guidance in ecological spirituality; and
  7. Aiding local community resilience and empowerment.

Of the 130 universities currently committed to the Journey, 52 are Jesuit. Learn more about the Universities Pathwayshere, and learn more about the Task Force’s call to action and work in this video.

Next, representatives from four Jesuit institutions across four continents shared their universities’ commitment to the Journey.

María Eugenia Ibarrán of Universidad Iberoamericana Puebla (Mexico) outlined the University’s process for forming a Laudato Si’ team. She said, “Given the complexity of the social and environmental crisis, [our goal is] to be a platform for honest dialogue about our common home, at all levels of social life. This facilitates transparent decision-making processes responding to the cry of the Earth and the poor, based on an integral ecology that promotes a change of lifestyle and an authentic ecological conversion, promoting personal transformation and community work.”

Chinyere Oparah and Alice Kaswan from the University of San Francisco (USA) highlighted steps their university has taken to commit to environmental sustainability and justice. These include revising their university mission statement to include language on caring for our common home; forming an inclusive university working group with presidential leadership and cabinet-level buy-in; and undertaking deep communal reflection through the 2022 Mission Priority Examen.

Rev. Roberto Yap, S.J. then shared Ateneo de Manila’s (Philippines) journey toward becoming a Laudato Si’ University, centered on three key goals and actions:

  1. Integrating the LSAP into the University’ Strategic Plan;
  2. Pursuing carbon neutrality by 2030; and
  3. Working to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), as assessed through THE Impact Rankings.

Fr. Yap said, “Universities play an important role in leading the transition to a carbon neutral society. Universities can serve as centers of innovation… Ateneo Manila would like to lead the way toward carbon neutrality and set the example for how every university [in the Philippines] can become carbon neutral.”

Finally, Rev. James Campbell, S.J. of Hekima University College (Kenya) made a personal call for Assembly participants to commit to environmental justice at their universities. He did so by sharing compulsory environmental ethics courses, elective courses, and other institutional efforts by Hekima University College to pursue sustainability. Fr. Campbell closed by referencing the UN Climate Change Conference’s “Conference of the Parties” (COP), saying that the Jesuit community should reimagine this acronym to stand for “Change our Parish.”

Call to Action

Nancy Tuchman closed the session by inviting all IAJU members to join the Laudato Si’ Journey. “If all IAJU members joined the Laudato Si’ Journey to advance the calls from Pope Francis and Jesuit Superior General Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J., this could be the largest shared project that Jesuit universities embark on at the same time in our recent history. The Earth and the poor are crying for us to work together to encourage one another on the journey.”

Learn more about the Task Force’s work on the IAJU website.

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