Arts / Faith and Humanities / Campus Community

Taking Action for the Planet and People

Written by Tina Potterf

October 18, 2022

Seattle University spotlights its work on Laudato Si’ and Pope’s call to care for our common home.

In 2015, with the encyclical Laudato Si’ “On Care for our Common Home,” Pope Francis put forth an urgent call for the planet, urging “all people of goodwill” to take care of the Earth amid a global ecological crisis. From this a concrete action project was born, underpinned by a multi-year commitment that, as Pope Francis wrote, “will involve our communities in different ways, so that they can become totally sustainable in the holistic spirit of integral ecology.”

Seattle University was one of several Catholic institutions to respond to the Pope’s call and sign on to participate in the Laudato Si’ Action Platform.

“This journey that the Pope speaks about is … an ecological conversion process designed for seven social sectors: families, parishes and dioceses, educational institutions, hospitals and health care centers, the economy sector, organizations and groups and religious orders,” explains Professor Jeanette Rodriguez, PhD, who co-chairs the Laudato Si’ Action Platform with Sustainability Manager Yolanda Cieters. 

The campus community helped officially inaugurate the Laudato Si’ Action Platform—a “Seven-Year Journey Toward Integral Ecology”—on October 20. The summit and celebration featured a welcome from President Eduardo Peñalver, presentations by Dr. Rodriguez and Cieters and an overview and engagement around the priorities of the Laudato Si’ action plan for Seattle University.

“I am hopeful and excited about the educational and operational opportunities this commitment will bring,” says President Eduardo Peñalver. “Seattle University’s inaugural Laudato Si’ Steering Committee has, under the leadership of Chair Dr. Rodriguez, done tremendous work in establishing a baseline for the university, conducting a self-assessment, creating a proposed action plan and forming a structure that will effectively guide the university’s efforts in this new initiative.”

As a Laudato Si’ university, SU must commit to three initiatives each year. They are: 

Four priorities have been adopted by the university to make progress toward the Laudato Si’ goals:

–Priority #1: Integrate integral ecology across the curriculum and research
–Priority #2: Achieve climate neutrality and reduce SU’s environmental footprint
–Priority #3: Practice socially responsible consumption, purchasing and investment
–Priority #4: Develop a sustainable campus climate and deepen community engagement and public advocacy

One of the most rewarding things about being involved in the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, says Dr. Rodriguez, is the participation of the broad SU community and “how this work is a culmination of the immense labor that so many faculty, staff and students have invested over the past years.”

“The action plan and the accompanying structure that is being formed could not have been realized if it weren’t for the years of thought process, hard work, advocacy and collaboration across campus,” says Cieters. “A vital difference at this time is the institutional commitment to support this action-focused initiative. This gives a lot of hope to all who are involved.”

“And we have no time to lose,” adds Cieters. “The social and environmental crisis we are facing are real and we collectively, individuals and institutions, should step up and take action and responsibility today.”

The university’s full Laudato Si’ action plan will be published later this academic year.