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ND celebrates feast of St. Francis

Brooke Kovanda | Wednesday, October 5, 2011

While the “green” movement may be a modern phenomenon, the University looked back into Church history for inspiration as it commenced its annual celebration of the Feast of Saint Francis, patron saint of the environment, Tuesday.

The celebration began with a mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart led by Fr. Tom Doyle, University vice president for Student Affairs.

Doyle said the life of Saint Francis is still relevant today, as it pertains to the role of Christians as stewards of creation.

“The importance and beauty of creation is no longer just for people who live on the fringe,” Doyle said.

The feast day celebration was not limited to the Basilica. Students who did not attend Mass were reminded of the day’s significance in the dining halls, where animal and environment-themed desserts included “dirt cake” and cakes shaped like dogs, ducks and pigs.

The evening culminated in a lecture by Professor Matthew Ashley, chair of the Theology Department.

His lecture stressed the importance of the Catholic influence on the debates of sustainability and environmentalism in the past and present.

Ashley said the implications of pollution and resource depletion are especially significant in Third World countries. While engineers and scientists are well equipped to address these issues, he said the theologian could also provide insight into how these issues impact human life and dignity.

“The place where concrete impact can happen is in discourse at a Catholic university,” he said.

Ashley said the lessons of Saint Francis are for not meant just for Catholic ears.

“Saint Francis of Assisi can [transcend] Catholicism and Christianity to reach all people,” he said.