Mercyhurst Magazine Spring 2022

LAUDATO SI’ COMMITMENT University joins Pope Francis in holistic approach to protecting the earth for future generations

By Deborah W. Morton

The Mercy mission, the Sisters’ Critical Concerns, the university’s forthcoming strategic plan, sustainability initiatives, and commitment to diversity and inclusion – it’s as if they are all coalescing in a kind of re f ned harmony. The word “coalesce” has Latin roots that mean “to be nourished together,” and that is exactly what is happening at Mercyhurst with the university’s recent commitment to the Laudato si’ (Praised Be You) Action Platform inspired by Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical in which he urges “care for our common home.” In announcing the university’s commitment, President Kathleen A. Getz, Ph.D., says Mercyhurst joins more than 100 Catholic universities across the United States, Africa, Europe, and Latin America in honoring the Pope’s priorities. Essentially, he asks that institutions come together in a holistic approach to some of the political, social, economic, and environmental problems that plague the world today. The undertaking extends over seven years, with th e f rst dedicated to community building; then, over the nex t f ve years, pursuing plans to achieve seven concrete goals (see separate box) ; f nally, culminating in a year of giving thanks to God. “I am delighted that our university is advancing this timely Vatican initiative, which is both urgent and consistent with our own mission,” Getz said. “We see this as an opportunity to connect and expand our existing work, while developing plans to achieve new goals as responsible environmental stewards.” Getz noted that the university’s newest strategic plan, now under development,

already includes attention “to enhancing the university commitment to campuswide, environmentally sustainable practices in light of the Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy.” During the next several months, the broad university community will work with Cabinet members to identify relevant university initiatives that are already underway. Under the Laudato si’ goal of “caring for the poor,” for example, the university o f ers The Beyond Scholarship in support of low-income students of color living in the city of Erie as well as the Pardon Project, Carpe Diem Academy, and alternative spring break service trips, including those supporting Habitat for Humanity. Two new university projects, which we examine here, are dedicated to “caring for the earth”: the Tiny Forest and the Tower Garden Project. “I have been struck by how Mercyhurst University students prioritize environmental sustainability and climate change as crucial moral and spiritual concerns,” said Dr. Greg Baker, vice president for mission. “The Laudato si’ commitment gives more shape to Mercyhurst’s enduring commitment to the earth, which we trace back in a special way to the tireless advocacy of Sister Maura Smith. This will allow us to look at broader issues through the lens of care for the earth – like buildings, vehicles, energy consumption, and curriculum. This will also allow us to look at how students and employees nurture and prioritize the Sisters’ commitment to 'ecological conversion' through simple, gentle, sustainable daily habits and attitudes.”

Seven Goals of Laudato si’ Action Platform • Care for the earth – with emphasis on addressing climate change, biodiversity loss, and ecological sustainability. • Care for the poor – with special attention to vulnerable groups like indigenous communities, refugees, migrants, and children. • Develop an ecological framework for economics – by acknowledging that the economy is a subsystem of human society and part of our common home. • Develop an ecological framework for education – with a need to rethink curricular and institutional reform to foster ecological awareness and action. • Develop an ecological framework for spirituality – by encouraging greater connections with the natural world in the spirit of wonder, praise, and gratitude. • Adopt a sustainable lifestyle – with attention to su f ciency: living with just enough and not excess to ensure a good life for all. • Encourage community engagement – with attention to participatory action at all levels, local to international.


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