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University of Scranton Commits to Becoming a Laudato Si’ University

Scranton University Commits to Becoming a Laudato Si’ University

BY ISN STAFFJune 21, 2023

The University of Scranton has begun a seven-year journey to become designated as a Laudato Si’ University by the Vatican. Inspired by Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, the University will join Catholic and non-Catholic colleges around the world who have committed to develop, implement and evaluate initiatives around seven goals to meet the Pope’s call for integral ecology, meaning that science, ethics, spirituality and action are mutually respected and empowered.

“The University of Scranton has answered this call and has joined a network of colleges across the globe to begin the process this academic year of becoming a Laudato Si’ University,” said Rev. Joseph Marina, S.J., president of the University. “Becoming a Laudato Si’ University allows us to enhance and extend the graces for which Scranton has been so richly blessed to the greater care of others and of the earth.”

Scranton University Commits to Becoming a Laudato Si’ University

Image: Scranton University

“For decades, we have called for and implemented sustainable practices throughout our community, from green chemistry classes, to a ‘Responsibility, Sustainability and Justice’ cornerstone course in our MBA program, to building LEED certified facilities, to hosting dozens of Earth Day events annually, and much, much more,” said Fr. Marina.

To be designated as a Laudato Si’ University, colleges must evaluate comprehensively current environmental and sustainability programs, then improve and develop further initiatives to address seven goals outlined by the Pope. The goals to be addressed are: to respond to the cries of the Earth; to respond to the call of the poor; to apply ecological economics; to adopt sustainable lifestyles; to implement ecological education programs; to develop ecological spirituality efforts; and to develop programs to address community resilience and empowerment.

The seven-year plan calls on universities to develop and implement plans that progress from the beginning stage to mid-range and advanced levels. A resource website for participating schools includes lists of initiatives institutions could address: universities are called to review, record and decrease their carbon footprints, and to engage in research and programs involving spirituality, education, personal energy consumption, and the community, such as planting gardens, restoring land, and supporting local farmer’s markets. Ideas listed include the development of an incentive program for community members to monitor daily cell phone/social media use and then reduce usage by 50 percent, the support of community-based research on local eco-social problems, and expanding the community bank campaign to include investment in green, sustainable business and organizations.

The journey begins with assembling a team of administrators, staff, faculty and students to conduct a comprehensive examination of what the university is currently doing and aspiring to do to “care for our common home” during the first year and create an action plan for the next six years. The Laudato Si’ website states: “The goal is to have a Laudato Si’ Action Plan created by the university and for the university. The action plan would be implemented and evaluated in years two through six. Year seven would mark a time of celebration and official Vatican recognition of the institution as a Laudato Si’ University.”

According to the website, along with critical awareness of current environmental issues facing the planet, the action plans “must carry forward an integral awareness; that is, a recognition that earth-healing programs and activities have not only a public, social dimension, but also a personal, spiritual dimension.” The plans will address the critical needs of the poor. As Pope Francis said in Laudato Si’: “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both environmental and social.” 

The plans will address not only the social-structural changes needed to care for the earth and human society, but also “the personal transformations needed to live a sustainable lifestyle” and will include a “spiritual dimension, where students explore the depth of their calling to care for our common home.” The plans also call for “identifying and mobilizing constituents, welcoming the local community members into the university space, building trust, and finding solutions to local environmental problems.”

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