Arts / Faith and Humanities / Campus Community / People of SU

The Significance of Laudato Si’ at Seattle University on its 5th Anniversary

May 20, 2020

Three faculty members reflect on the continued importance of the papal encyclical and resources for celebrating the anniversary observance.

The celebration of the fifth anniversary of the papal encyclical Ladauto Si’ is underway through May 24. The theme is “Everything is Connected” and there are many ways for the Seattle U community to take part virtually.

The encyclical finds significance at Seattle University. According to the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability, “The healing and stewardship of our planet is fundamental to the university’s Jesuit Catholic mission of building a just and humane world. Seattle U’s established leadership in advancing environmental justice and sustainability is evident in its academic programs, co-curricular offerings and operations. In the spirit of the pope’s encyclical the university is deepening its commitment to educating students as thoughtful caretakers of creation, while working to reduce its carbon footprint. “

Phil Thompson, PhD, director of the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability (CEJS) and professor of civil and environmental engineering, says, “Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ provided a focal point for Catholics from around the world who seek to change our throwaway culture. It is a beautifully written document that offers clear language that can unite us in ‘Care for Our Common Home.’ It is fitting that this call-to-action was written by the first Jesuit Pope.

“The beautiful words and vision of Laudato Si’ have continued to inspire us at CEJS,” Thompson continues. “It has served as our unofficial strategic plan for the past five years. Our work has coupled the environmental and social dimensions of sustainability through the support of student and faculty research and through our food and water projects around the world.”

Jeanette Rodriguez, PhD, professor of theology and religious studies and director of the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture, authored a paper on the encyclical a couple of years ago in which she wrote, “On June 18, 2015, Pope Francis issued his encyclical Laudato Si’, which affirms our interconnection and mutual responsibility, denouncing those aspects of the world that have led us to our current situation. Pope Francis repeatedly addresses our need to re-examine the dominant narrative of individualism, unlimited progress, consumerism and the unregulated market. He rejects and criticizes the market that ‘prioritizes profits excluding other aspects, privileges individual desire over the common good.’”

Rodriguez noted that the Jesuit Apostolic Preferences also are pertinent when considering Laudato Si’:

- To show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment.

- To walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice.

- To accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future.

- To collaborate in the care of our Common Home.

Donna Teevan, PhD, associate professor and chair of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, says, “One of the things that strikes me, looking back at Laudato Si’ is Pope Francis’ deep appreciation of how interconnected all of life is. Another is that he understood the environmental crisis not just as a technological problem to be solved, but also as a spiritual crisis. Pope Francis calls on people, especially in the West, to move to a more communal, intergenerational and integrated way of thinking and living. He highlights global inequality and the fact that the poor are disproportionately affected by the environmental crisis. He calls for transparency in policy making. These themes resonate even more now than they did five years ago.”

Students have been exploring these ideas in courses taught by Theology and Religious Studies faculty. Students read portions of Laudato Si’ in some of their Core courses and Theology and Religious Studies majors have been writing research papers incorporating it. One of the faculty, senior instructor Wes Howard-Brook, JD, reflected on the encyclical as part of his CEJS Earth Day talk, “Falling in Love with the Land.”

Resources and ways to participate

The Catholic Climate Covenant has developed a comprehensive website. Highlights include the Global Day of Prayer at noon PST, Sunday, May 24, part of the core Laudato Si’ Week activities from the Vatican. Hope for Creation initiative and its related Climate Action 2020 Pledge (for ideas go here). And here are additional Laudato Si’ Week activities sponsored by Catholic Climate Covenant partners.

Prayer cards, bulletin inserts and daily reflections from The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) (available in English and Spanish).

Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat of the Society of Jesus

Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Ecology

Society of Jesus Caring for our Common Home


Reconciling God, Creation and Humanity: An Ignatian Examen